Health and Human services discusses mask mandates, safety measures, and COVID-19 in the Cape Fear

NEW HANOVER COUNTY (WWAY) —

As some committee members met Friday afternoon, dozens of locals joined over Zoom, watching as groundwork for a major decision was laid.

One of the committee’s first concerns: the strain COVID-19 continues to put on our health system.

“Historically it was the inpatient side of the house,” said Dr. Stephanie Smith. “Now it sounds like it’s more on the outpatient side of the house. And the reasons for that increased demand on the ER appear to be for testing.”

With a testing shortage across the US, more people have shown up at the ER requesting them. To alleviate that increase, more testing sites will open around the Cape Fear as tests become more readily available.

The health professions then shifted their focus to masking and whether there were alternatives. Suggestions included communication and education campaigns, positive reinforcement for those who mask and get vaccinated, social distancing, limiting the amount of people in indoor settings, and requiring the unvaccinated to wear masks indoors.

“We could have our organizations, businesses, if they request that people show proof of their vaccine status for indoor settings,” explained Dr. LeShonda Wallace.

As of Friday, New Hanover County’s percent positivity rate was 25.5 percent. North Carolina’s was around 30. That’s compared to rates last year, when the board set five percent as the maximum percent positivity rate it would consider before dropping the mask mandate.

Dr. David Zub said masking should be heavily considered in that upcoming meeting.

“The last surge we had was really limited by the county’s use of masking,” Zub said. “When you look at the surrounding counties that continue to have elevated numbers as we are trending down, their numbers were still somewhat elevated.”

Though no board members would comment on how they might vote at this time, members did encourage locals to stay safe and do their part in bringing numbers down.

Pandemic Operations Manager Jon Campbell recommended wearing a tight mask, social distancing, testing if you are exposed, and staying home if you feel sick.

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