New Hanover County leaders react to letter sent by state on COVID-19

New Hanover listed as one of 36 counties of concern. Local leaders encouraged to take action to better enforce COVID-19 guidelines
Updated: Oct. 21, 2020 at 10:08 PM EDT
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - Letters co-signed by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen identified New Hanover as one of 36 counties of concern in the state regarding COVID-19 cases.

The county has identified more than 400 new cases in the past two weeks.

The letter asks local leaders to take additional steps to improve compliance with the state’s COVID-19 guidelines.

New Hanover County Commissioner Rob Zapple said he’s not sure that will happen.

“I don’t believe there’s any appetite at all from our county staff--and I can only speak for myself as a commissioner--for increasing any restrictions or ordinances to what we already have,” said Zapple.

New Hanover County Health Department director Phillip Tarte says the county has seen an increase in COVID-19 cases. But he stopped short of saying it has reached dangerous levels.

“We have seen in New Hanover County somewhat of an uptick, maybe a steady meant of our numbers,” said Tarte. “We are going to continue to spread the message of mask-wearing, handwashing, and social distancing--not only in October but through the winter months when people congregate the most.”

While Zapple says he does not believe an immediate change is coming to ensure people follow the mask mandate and other guidelines, that doesn’t mean one won’t...if numbers warrant it.

“When the science and when the data is there to make that point, we will certainly take a hard look at it,” said Zapple. “But I’ll tell you this is something our county manager and our health department are looking at every day all day. It has our full attention.”

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