Governor changes course on masks amid worsening trends in delta variant – Salisbury Post


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By Bryan Anderson

Associated Press / Report for America

RALEIGH – North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper on Thursday decided to reverse guidelines he issued last week and will now urge all K-12 students and staff in public schools to wear masks, even though they have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

The Democratic governor and the state’s top public health official, Dr Mandy Cohen, blamed the unvaccinated and renewed their calls for them to be vaccinated.

“Our trends have turned sharply in the wrong direction,” Cooper said at a press conference. “Unvaccinated people are causing this resurgence and making themselves sick, along with other people. “

But at a time when nearly all available metrics show the virus spreading at its worst level in months, Cooper said he would let the statewide mask mandate expire on Friday.

In the two weeks leading up to Cooper’s announcement last week that he would let the statewide mask mandate expire and ease masking requirements for high school students from July 30, cases had already more than tripled and hospitalizations had risen by more than 69% – a move that frustrated the state’s biggest lobby for teachers. It also confused some Democratic lawmakers and prompted several school districts to make masks optional for all K-12 students.

“I can’t understand why the governor felt this,” said State Representative Garland Pierce, a Democrat representing the counties of Hoke and Scotland, in an interview following Cooper’s decision. relax restrictions. “I’ll be honest about it. I’m just a little concerned about this because it’s pretty hard to tell people to take off the masks but get the shot. I hope he can rethink it a bit because it will send a mixed message. “

Nineteen school districts have decided to make masks optional for kindergarten to grade 12 students, according to an Education NC analysis. Students under 12 are not currently eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine.

Although the data showed minimal transmission within schools, the researchers recommend continuing to wear a mask.

Since Cooper’s announcement, the spread of the virus has continued to skyrocket, largely fueled by the more contagious delta variant and those not fully vaccinated.

Daily new COVID-19 cases topped 3,200 on Thursday for the first time since February 25. More than 10% of test results on Sunday came back positive, the worst positivity rate since February 1. In addition, 1,141 people are currently hospitalized in the North. Caroline because of the virus – the highest number since April 22.

“Our trends are accelerating at an alarming rate,” Cohen said, adding that “this is now an unvaccinated pandemic.”

North Carolina is not unique.

The outbreak is occurring nationwide, prompting the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to turn the tide this week by recommending that vaccinated people in most counties wear masks in indoor public places.

The latest CDC data has all but 14 of North Carolina’s 100 counties showing “substantial” or “high” levels of transmission, as at least 50 new cases per 100,000 people have appeared in the past seven days. This means that almost all of the estimated 5 million fully vaccinated North Carolinians should continue to wear masks when indoors and in public.

Leading Republicans in North Carolina are concerned that the abrupt change in recommendations from state and federal health authorities will cause fewer residents to get vaccinated because they will still have to wear masks indoors.

“All we get from public health officials is shifting rules and perpetual panic,” the office of Republican Senate chief Phil Berger said in a press release. “The CDC offers more consistent advice on consuming raw cookie dough than masks. That’s a problem, and here’s why: If the CDC erodes its credibility on masks, then it risks eroding its credibility on the far more important vaccine message.

Still, there were signs of optimism that more people would come in for the vaccine, especially as students prepare to go back to school, adults worry more and more about the delta variant. and employers force workers to be vaccinated.

More than 60,000 North Carolinians came for a first dose of a vaccine last week, the highest weekly number since the week of May 24.

While the plans have prompted a substantial setback from key Republican lawmakers concerned about individual rights, 14 state-run health facilities and several large hospital systems, including WakeMed Health & Hospitals, are forcing workers to be vaccinated against COVID -19 if they want to stay employed.

Cooper announced Thursday that agency workers at the agency will be asked to prove they have been vaccinated. Unvaccinated officials will need to wear a mask and get tested weekly, he said.

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