Face Covering Requirement in New Hanover County Lifted

Posted November 12, 2021 at 11:06 am     Category: News ReleasePublic Health

NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC – At its meeting today, the New Hanover County Health and Human Services Board voted to lift the health rule that requires face coverings in all indoor public places within New Hanover County, effective immediately. Entities within New Hanover County, like healthcare facilities, schools, private businesses, and others, have the option to continue requiring face coverings indoors, even without the county-wide health rule in place.

The health rule was a temporary measure put in place in August as COVID-19 case counts, hospitalizations, and percent positivity rates were spiking due to the delta variant. Since the rule’s enactment on August 31, New Hanover County’s metrics have improved significantly, and after researching and reviewing that information over the past several weeks, the board determined that the health rule could end.

“While the board has repealed the health rule, we still strongly encourage residents, especially those who have not been vaccinated or are at greater risk of severe health impacts from the virus, to wear a mask in public indoor places particularly crowded spaces like public transportation,” said Health and Human Service Board Chair Dr. LeShonda Wallace. “As part of the board’s decision today, the HHS Board voted to continue to monitor COVID-19 metrics in the county and if those spike again – including a percent positivity rate over 5 percent, daily case counts above 100, and burden of COVID-19 hospitalizations on our healthcare system’s capacity – the board may reconsider implementing the health rule again. Our goal is to protect the entire community and reduce the impact of disease, and that will continue to be our focus.”

In making its determination, the board heard public comments, had in-depth discussion, and reviewed the following local information:

  • Percent positivity rate for the past 14 days: currently 2.7 percent and is below the desired threshold of 5 percent.
  • Number of positive cases per day: an average of 14.5 new cases over the past 14 days (for a total of 203 cases over the past 14 days).
  • Current COVID-19 outbreaks in the county: a total of four and not deemed to impact the community as a whole.
  • Status of NHRMC related to the number of people hospitalized with an active case of COVID-19: around 9 patients are currently hospitalized, showing there is currently no burden on our local healthcare system.
  • Overall metrics from our state and region, as it relates to possible impacts to our local community.

Board of Commissioners Chair and HHS Board member Julia Olson-Boseman made the motion for the board to repeal the health rule, and it was approved in a vote of 8-4.

“Our community’s COVID-19 metrics are considerably better than when the health rule was implemented – and those improvements have been sustained over several weeks now,” said Olson-Boseman. “It was time to lift the mandate, while still encouraging the community to make good decisions on when and where to wear a mask. The county is going to remain vigilant in monitoring the virus and we are investing resources in a pandemic operations team that will be at the forefront to help advise, educate, and respond to the needs in our community because the pandemic is not over and will eventually become endemic and will continue to be present. I am glad our community members are continuing to get vaccinated and receive the booster, and that children five and up now have the ability to receive the vaccine. It’s important that we keep working together and taking these steps and precautions to ensure this positive path continues and cases do not spike again.”

New Hanover County has moderate transmission of the virus, according to the CDC, and is in the top six of all North Carolina counties for having the lowest percent positivity.

A recording of the board meeting and discussion is available on the county’s YouTube channel here.

Face Coverings in County Facilities

Given the decision by the HHS Board, New Hanover County Government has also modified its face covering policy and will no longer require customers to wear face coverings while inside county facilities and at county meetings effective immediately.

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