Local Politics

Raleigh officials: Mask mandate stays until positive tests drop below 5%

Posted September 21, 2021 1:11 p.m. EDT
Updated September 21, 2021 4:54 p.m. EDT

— Raleigh officials said during a city council meeting on Tuesday that the city would continue to require that people wear face masks in all public and private indoor settings until the daily rate of positive coronavirus tests drops below 5%.

The city’s latest mask mandate went into place a little over a month ago on Aug. 13, in response to increasing cases of COVID-19 especially due to the delta variant.

Neighborhoods in Raleigh and Wake Forest have two of the three highest totals of coronavirus infections in North Carolina, WRAL News reported on Monday and Wake County overall has a positivity rate of 5.8% as of Tuesday, city officials said during Tuesday's city council meeting.

"As long as hospitalizations remain where they are, nothing is going to change," said Raleigh Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin.

Since the pandemic began, Wake County has counted 117,772 coronavirus infections and 806 deaths.

More than 100 of those cases were reported among City of Raleigh staff in August. Through Sept. 20, another 50 city employees had tested positive.

Those who work for the City of Raleigh are required to be vaccinated or get tested every week. Staff members who chose to get vaccinated before the end of September will be eligible for $250 and two extra days of paid leave.

Masks are required and provided for people who enter city government buildings and use public transportation.

A majority, 71%, of full-time City of Raleigh employees reported they are fully vaccinated while only around 30% of part-time employees say they are vaccinated.

Employees returned to the office at the end of August, city officials said.

City of Raleigh suffered when COVID canceled visits

Baldwin and other city staff members met earlier on Tuesday morning in a work session to discuss the city’s tourism industry.

A report released this summer by Visit Raleigh indicates how much money Wake County lost in 2020, largely due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Wake County welcomed 29% fewer visitors in 2020 than it did in 2019, the report shows, and the first yearly decline since the Great Recession in 2009. The 13 million visitors spent $1.7 billion, a 43% decrease from 2019.

To combat some of that loss, the city is looking at investing $75,000 in an LED screen as a way to draw more people downtown.

The funds local and state governments receive from travel and tourism likely save Wake County households more than $470 in taxes each year, Visit Raleigh said, indicating the value of visitors.

Reports show many people are still traveling and booking hotels; however, restaurants and hotels are having trouble attracting employees. The industry as a whole is still down more than 30,000 hospitality jobs in North Carolina.

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