Chief physician at NHRMC blames lack of masks wearing on cases tripling in NHC

Wearing a face mask can stop the spread on the virus

WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - New Hanover County’s drastic rise in positive COVID-19 cases is concerning but not surprising to the chief physician at New Hanover Regional Medical Center.

Within one month, the number of coronavirus cases in the county jumped from 150 at the start of Phase Two to now more than 700.

Dr. Phil Brown says people not wearing masks and two holiday weekends in the month of May is the reason for the spike.

“Masks are just critical and people are just not taking the masking seriously in public and so as a result of Mother’s Day and Memorial Day weekends, we’re seeing this spike in cases,” Brown says. “Right now the curve is almost straight up in terms of increasing.”

Brown says there are many people who have constructed many different arguments about why masks don't matter, but aside from health reasons, he says they are wrong.

"Two people who come in contact with each other who are wearing masks--that transmission is about two percent," Brown says. "If only one person is wearing a mask then it might be 60-70 percent transmission. So everybody wearing a mask all at the same time is critical. We know this virus is transmitted by respiratory droplets and aerosols and masks unequivocally slow that down."

Brown and other medical experts at NHRMC predict we'll see another wave of significant increases in the next one to two weeks. He believes there will be a surge in cases from the protests happening in downtown Wilmington where people are not social distancing and many are not wearing masks.

"We know from the recent protests that that was another time when there was a lot of exposure," he says. "So we're probably another seven to 10, 11, 12 days out from seeing the effects of that. We know its going to go up and we suspect based on what our predictive models are now showing, its going to continue to increase. We know in North Carolina the cases are doubling every 11 to 12 days and that is what we are seeing."

Brown predicts that if people continue to not wear mask, despite an order issued by Governor Roy Cooper for mandatory face coverings Wednesday, this pandemic could last for several more months.

“My expectation is the we’re going to have this pandemic well into Spring of 2021. I think the worst of it is likely to be in October, November time frame of this year.”

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