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New CDC mask recommendations for vaccinated applies to Southeastern North Carolina counties

Published: Jul. 28, 2021 at 12:05 AM EDT
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SOUTHEASTERN N.C. (WECT) - The CDC calls for a return to masking as the Delta variant fuels an increase in COVID-19 cases across the country, including in Southeastern North Carolina.

The CDC is now recommending that vaccinated people should wear masks indoors in places where the coronavirus is surging.

According to the CDC’s map of community transmission in the state of North Carolina, a majority of counties in the southern half of the state are now under this new mask recommendation, as they are considered to have high levels of COVID-19 transmission in the community.

Looking at Southeastern North Carolina, Brunswick, Pender, Bladen and Columbus counties all have ‘high’ levels of community transmission, according to the CDC.

New Hanover County is the only county in the area that does not have high levels of community transmission. Instead, it has a ‘substantial’ level of transmission.

Carla Turner, the New Hanover County assistant health director, said the increase in COVID cases is concerning.

“I was on a call today — the state health department call that we have every other Tuesday — and it was reported that over 80% of the positive cases that were sent from North Carolina to the CDC for sequencing last week are the Delta variant, which is very large,” Turner said.

Turner stressed that vaccination continues to be the number one defense.

“The three vaccines do give you protection against the Delta variant. The thing with vaccines is there’s no vaccine that we’ve ever had in the history of vaccinations that’s 100% guarantees you cannot get the disease,” she said. “What they do is they give us a level of protection that we would not have otherwise. So it’s going to protect me hopefully from getting COVID, or if I were to be exposed and to get sick I’d have a much lesser case, less severe outcomes than if I wasn’t vaccinated.”

The CDC, in it’s recommendation, points to new evidence that suggests that fully vaccinated people who become infected with the Delta variant can spread the virus to others. That’s why it’s now recommending that vaccinated individuals mask up indoors.

The agency also recommends that everyone in Kindergarten through 12th grade wear a mask indoors, regardless of vaccination status. That includes students, teachers, staff and visitors.

Just last week, Pender County Schools Board of Education announced that students and staff will not be required to wear face masks next fall.

We reached out this evening to the board chair and vice chair to see if they plan to revisit the decision given this new recommendation.

While they did not immediately respond to our request, a spokesperson issued a statement:

“The Pender County Board of Education will continue to review the latest guidance from the state and information from health professionals to make the best decisions for the health and well-being of the students and staff in Pender County. As more information becomes available, we will work to update the public.”

As for other county schools in the area, New Hanover County is requiring masks while Bladen and Columbus counties have yet to decide.

Brunswick County is currently asking for feedback from parents about the use of face coverings indoors.

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