Columbus County residents voice mixed opinions on mask-wearing guidelines

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COLUMBUS COUNTY, NC (WWAY) — As COVID-19 cases rise in Columbus County, health experts are saying it is mostly due to community spread.

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services have deemed the county as a “red zone” or in “critical condition” when it comes to the community spread of COVID-19.

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With a population of less than 56,000 people, Columbus County is relatively small. But even though more than 2,800 residents have been diagnosed with Coronavirus, Whiteville residents are divided when it comes to wearing masks.

“You can go get your hair done, you can get your nails done, but you can’t put a mask on your face?” asked Tameka Smith, a local mother. “I don’t get it.”
“Well, they don’t mask up when we have the flu season, so what’s the big deal about this?” said Linwood Pridgen, a local business owner.

About 5% percent of the county’s total population has been diagnosed with the virus since March. 73 residents have died, according to NCDHHS.

Kim Smith, the county health director, says many living there refuse to take basic precautions like wearing a mask, and Justin Smith, The News Reporter editor, agreed.

“I do think it’s important for people to wear a mask. That’s the data that we’ve seen at the national level. That’s certainly what Columbus County’s Health Director is telling people they should be doing. It is it seems like some folks just aren’t getting the memo,” Smith said.

Anthony Butler, a local hairstylist, believed masks should be up to the wearer, but the feelings of others should always be taken into account.

“I don’t want to make anyone uncomfortable. Because this is an age where you can insult anyone by doing anything. I just try to be cautious of who I’m around.”

But residents like Tameka Smith disagree, saying it’s important to keep a mask on at all times. Her son in Chicago has COVID-19, and she wishes everyone would wear a mask to keep themselves and other safe.

“Please take it seriously,” Smith said. “Wear your mask. It’s really serious. And I don’t think it takes effect until someone in your family gets it. But if you don’t want to get it, you don’t want your family to get it, wear your mask.”

Research show masks can prevent spread of the virus.

NCDHHS reports there has been a total 2,833 COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began. Within the last two weeks, there have been 773 cases.