WRAL Investigates

Indoor mask mandate to remain for most of Wake, but Fayetteville's to end on Monday

Posted October 27, 2021 7:57 p.m. EDT
Updated October 29, 2021 5:32 p.m. EDT

— North Carolina reported 2,160 coronavirus infections on Wednesday, which is 17 percent lower than a week ago. But even though pandemic-related metrics continue trending downward in the state, local officials say they aren't ready to lift rules requiring masks indoors in public places.

Wake County's mask mandate expires Monday, but Matt Calabria, chairman of the county Board of Commissioners, said Wednesday an order extending it would be issued by the end of the week. That order came Friday.

The county is considered a "high transmission" area for the virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Calabria said he doesn't want to end the mandate before the county drops to a "moderate transmission" area.

The CDC bases those categories on the rate of new infections and the positive rate on virus tests over a seven-day period. Although Wake County's 3.3 percent positive rate is in the "low transmission" range, the rate of 100 cases per 100,000 residents would need to be cut by more than half to get into the moderate range.

"We are trending strongly in the right direction," Calabria said. “We are almost there, and we just need to keep with it a little while longer."

Raleigh Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin said she also has no plans to lift the city's indoor mask mandate until the CDC says the region has only moderate levels of viral transmission.

"My biggest fear right now is that we lift it too early and we end up where we were," Baldwin said. "I just want to make sure we are in a safer place, and, when we lift this, we don’t have to go back to a mask mandate again."

Garner, Knightdale, Morrisville, Rolesville and Zebulon also are keeping their indoor mask mandates in place.

Calabria said the upcoming holidays, with people traveling and visiting relatives, could lead to another spike in cases, as happened last year.

"There is a substantial degree of uncertainty," he said. "We don’t necessarily want to take our foot off the gas in the last lap of the race."

That's why, he said, officials want to base any decision on the data.

"We hear from folks who are very grateful that there is a mask mandate because they feel protected. They feel like they can go to the store," he said.

Jessica Throneburg, who owns Little Details, a women's clothing store in Garner, said she's heard from enough people who don't want to wear masks in stores that she no longer enforces the mandate for customers. Her employees do wear masks.

"We are not police," Throneburg said. "We feel like everyone is adults here. Everyone can kind of make decisions for themselves.

"I want to do what is right by everybody, but there is no winning in this situation," she added.

Cary officials said Thursday that they will end their indoor mask mandate on Friday, and Fayetteville Mayor Mitch Colvin said Friday that his city's mandate would end midnight on Nov. 1.

"This is the result of the reductions we have experienced in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations," Colvin said in a statement. "We are very thankful and appreciative to all of you for your cooperation, patience and, most of all, for getting vaccinated. Let’s continue this positive trend and keep each other safe as we work through this challenging time.”

Cumberland County public health officials say the mask mandate will remain in effect for the rest of the county.

Apex, Fuquay-Varina, Holly Springs, Wake Forest and Wendell don't have mask mandates in place.

Even when mandates are lifted, doctors still recommend that people wear masks in crowded indoor spaces.

“The more we mask, the safer we are going to be," said Dr. David Kirk, associate chief medical officer for WakeMed.

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