CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (WTVD) -- Orange County plans to issue a mandate later this week that will require masks indoors, a county official said on Tuesday.
The mandate will be in effect for Chapel Hill, Carrboro and Hillsborough buildings and businesses.
"With cases of COVID19 and its Delta variant surging across Orange County and the nation, we are issuing a mandate requiring adults and children to wear face coverings while inside any building," said Renee Price, Chair of the Orange County Board of Commissioners. "This step is essential if we hope to slow the spread of the Delta variant. While we ask all residents to take this precaution, more importantly, if you know individuals who have been reluctant to get the vaccine, please take them to a vaccination site to get their shot and protect yourself and your family members, friends and neighbors."
"What we really need is for folks who are eligible to get vaccinated to protect those who cannot be, including the thousands of children under age 12 in Orange County," said Hillsborough Mayor Jenn Weaver. "Vaccines are safe, highly effective against serious illness and death, and free. The goal is to end the pandemic, and vaccines are the pathway to that end, but we need folks to mask up as we continue to reach maximum coverage with vaccines."
"It is deeply frustrating and concerning to see our numbers on the rise again - especially after many in our community have worked so hard to keep COVID from spreading," said Chapel Hill Mayor Pam Hemminger. "To keep Orange County open and to protect vulnerable individuals - including children under 12 who have not yet been vaccinated - science tells us that the best way to combat the virus is for everyone to vaccinate, mask up and spread out."
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Last week, Orange County government reinstituted a mask mandate for visitors and staff inside county buildings, citing the Delta variant. That mandate went into effect Aug. 5 and will remain in place indefinitely.
The new mask mandate goes into effect Wednesday at 5 p.m. It applies to anyone 2 years and older, regardless of vaccination status.
The mandate does not apply to the following people:
- Anyone with a diagnosed medical or behavioral condition or disability, including difficulty breathing
- Children younger than 2
- Children younger than 5 and their parent, guardian, or responsible person has been unable to place and maintain a face covering safely on the child's face
- Anyone who is actively eating or drinking
- Anyone who is seeking to communicate with someone who is hearing impaired in a way that requires the mouth to be visible
- Anyone who is giving a speech or performance for a broadcast or to an audience where they maintain a distance of at least 20 feet from the audience
- Anyone who is working alone in an individual office setting (however, such person(s) shall apply a face covering when in common areas such as breakrooms, hallways, restrooms, or other areas where additional persons may be encountered)
- Anyone who has determined the face covering is impeding their visibility in the operation of equipment or a vehicle
For the week of June 20-26, Orange County reported nine cases out of 1,596 tests for a positivity rate of 0.6%. For the week of Aug. 1-7, Orange County reported 235 cases out of 4,040 tests for a positivity rate of 5.3%.
"It is unfortunate that we have to reinstate the mask mandate at this time," said Carrboro Mayor Lydia Lavelle. "However, the rise in COVID-19 cases due to the Delta variant, predominantly and most seriously among the unvaccinated, has created the situation that we now find ourselves in. Ultimately, extensive vaccination is what is needed to contain this pandemic."
UNC-Chapel Hill has already announced that everyone will be required to wear a mask while indoors on campus.
Durham County's mask mandate went into effect Monday.
"Facemasks are a common sense, non-economically damaging way of limiting transmission (of COVID-19)," Durham Mayor Steve Schewel said during a news conference. "If we want to keep our economy open, if we want to keep gathering together--as we are able to do now in public settings--we have got to wear facemasks to limit the spread of the virus in Durham County."
Durham's mandate does include fully vaccinated individuals.