As schools ditch mask mandates, UNC expert wishes they wouldn't

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Here's the latest news and information on COVID-19 and the COVID-19 vaccines.

5:26 p.m.
As mask mandates are lifted in school districts, local governments, and many state agencies Monday, an infectious disease expert is urging caution and wishing for masking in classrooms for a bit longer.

Dr. David Wohl, an infectious disease expert at UNC said COVID case counts dropping and hospitals emptying out of COVID-19 patients are encouraging signs.

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Dr. David Wohl said waiting even a couple of more weeks before losing masks inside classrooms would be a more measured approach.



"I think there's a sweet spot though," he said. "There's a lot of wishful thinking and I wish I could say that the science doesn't back up masking in schools -- it does back up masking. We know masks work. We know schools that mask have less community spread."

Wohl said waiting even a couple of more weeks before losing masks inside classrooms would be a more measured approach.

"I don't want to do anything that prevents us from getting where we all want to be," he said. "I don't want to take any chances that we're going to see an Omicron Ba.2 bump like they saw in Denmark. That would just slow us down, that would just make us more frustrated and exhausted so let's just keep going. Let's put our pedal to the metal. We're almost there."

As for those who do still chose to wear a mask indoors, Wohl said wearing something is better than nothing when everyone around you is without a mask.

-- ABC11's Andrea Blanford reported.

1:30 p.m.
North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services reported just 528 new cases, the lowest number since July 7--eight months ago. Daily cases are nearly four times lower than they were just two weeks ago.

The percentage of positive tests also dropped to 3.9%, the fifth-straight day the metric has remained below 5%. Just two weeks ago, the metric was at 10.7%. However, locally, the percentage of positive tests is still high--while it dropped to 3.1% in Durham County, the metric is still at 9.5% in Cumberland County.

Currently, 1,140 people are hospitalized with COVID-19. However, the percentage of COVID-19 patients in the ICU increased to 21%.

MONDAY MORNING HEADLINES
Starting Monday, masks are recommended, but not required for all Wake County Public School System students, faculty, staff and visitors. Wake County is the latest in a long list of school districts dropping mask mandates for students and staff as COVID-19 restrictions ease statewide.

Masks are recommended on school buses as well, but also not required. However, anyone who has been exposed to COVID-19 is still asked to mask up before coming to class.

Durham and Orange County are also dropping their county-wide mask mandates today. While Orange County Schools will allow students and staff to drop masks later this week, Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools and Durham Public Schools will keep their indoor mask requirements in place.

FRIDAY



5:05 p.m.

Durham County officials announced the termination of the Declaration of Emergency which was implemented and remained in effect as the COVID -19 pandemic continued to surge.

County Commissioners first issued a "Declaration of State of Emergency in Durham County" on March 14, 2020, at the start of the pandemic. Updates to the Declaration were subsequently added. The most recent update to the declaration came in August 2021, as the especially contagious Omicron variant pushed coronavirus cases to unprecedented levels over the following months.

The termination of declaration document states, "at the present time, the number of persons vaccinated in Durham and across the State of North Carolina has significantly increased, and the rate of positive cases and hospitalizations have decreased."

Chair Brenda Howerton signed the termination order Friday morning. The "Declaration of State of Emergency in the County of Durham to Prevent the Spread of COVID-19 is TERMINATED," effective Monday, March 7 at 12:01 a.m.

4:58 p.m.
Starting March 14, masks will be optional in most Cumberland County Government facilities for visitors and employees.

Masks will continue to be required at the Department of Public Health and the Detention Center in accordance with OSHA and other regulations.

"Things are looking better for Cumberland County as our COVID-19 metrics improve. In the last seven days, the number of new cases and new hospital admissions per 100,000 population decreased 52% and 23% respectively," said Glenn Adams, Chairman of the Cumberland County Board of Commissioners. "I am thankful we can move forward with this new guidance, but the pandemic is not yet over. We have free prevention measures widely available such as vaccinations, testing and treatment. Please continue to follow guidance from our health officials to protect yourselves, your co-workers, and your families."

12:27 p.m.
NCDHHS reports 2,646 new daily cases for a total of 2,589,014 since the start of the pandemic.

A week ago, there were 4,887 new cases.

Interestingly, for the week ending Feb. 19, people who were vaccinated made up 41% of COVID-19 cases in North Carolina. The percent of post-vaccination cases actually increased for that week compared to the previous week.

The daily percent positive is 4.3%, which is welcome news as health officials want to see that number at 5% or less.

Last week, it was 7.1% and two Fridays ago the number was 10.3%.

It's the second day in a row below 5% and the lowest rate since Nov. 17.

There are 1,336 hospitalizations, 65 fewer than the previous day.

However, the percentage of patients with COVID-19 requiring ICU level of care increased for the week ending Feb. 26

There were 38 new deaths reported since Friday for a total of 22,763 since the start of the pandemic.
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