FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (WTVD) -- Durham Public Schools and Cumberland County Schools are closely watching COVID-19 guidelines in light of both counties being labeled as high-risk areas for the virus.
The high-risk designation comes from a new update by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to its COVID-19 tracking map.
Duke University already announced it may revive its mask mandate. Cumberland County Schools says it's also closely watching the situation. This is the first time in months Cumberland County has been labeled a high-risk area for COVID-19 by the CDC, according to the county's public health department.
Cape Fear Valley Health's Chief Clinical Officer said the hospital is seeing an uptick in patients in the emergency room. Before Thanksgiving, there were less than 20 COVID-19 patients for months. Now there are more than 70.
"We keep seeing different strains of the virus," said Dr. Michael Zappa. "If you look at the booster that's out now as a bivalent booster aimed at not only covering you against the original COVID virus but also among some of the new variants. So, I don't think everyone has gotten that. And the newer variants, though fortunately some of them are not as deadly, they do spread very easily."
Durham Public Schools and Cumberland County Schools (CCS) said they aren't making changes to their COVID-19 protocols at this time. However, they are inviting families and students to mask up.
Shirley Bolden of CCS warns parents COVID-19 symptoms can a look a lot like the flu or RSV.
"We want our parents to lean heavily on those home tests," Bolden, the health services director of CCS said. "Use those home tests, follow-up with their primary care provider. We don't want you to just assume your child has the flu and keep your child at home."
Bolden explains further that it is important parents continue to report if their kids have COVID-19. Doing so keeps Cumberland County Schools' records up to date on how the virus is impacting students. Officials go on to say people should get boosted if it's been more than six months since they got vaccinated, monitor symptoms and be careful in large crowds.