Cumberland County leaders opt for mask mandate as COVID-19 cases surge, hospitals strained


FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (WNCN) – Cumberland County is the latest to issue a mask mandate for indoor public places.

After 50 minutes of discussion about the county’s surge in COVID-19 cases, the board of commissioners voted unanimously on Tuesday to approve a mask mandate across the county.

“I’m pro-mask. I don’t mind it,” said Icilda Cameron, of Fayetteville. “If you get your vaccine, get your vaccine, but I feel like everybody should still have a mask.”

Others have mixed feelings about the new mandate.

“It does feel like we’re moving backwards,” said Madison Ross, of Fayetteville. “Because, hopefully, we don’t get into a lockdown or anything.”

Board Chair Charles Evans said keeping children in school and out of remote learning was a big part of their decision.

“With our numbers going up and with our children going back to school, and the fear of this variant that’s existing now, it was a number of things,” Evans said.

Cumberland County’s percent positive rate is almost 16 percent, which is higher than the state average. Cases are so high the county health department is struggling to keep up with contact tracing.

“In the middle of July, we had approximately 500 new cases every week. We are up to more than 1,000 new cases every week,” said Dr. Jennifer Green, of the Cumberland County Health Department. “That’s far too many that outstrips our ability to effectively contact trace when we have that many cases.”

Cape Fear Valley Hospital is also feeling the strain. The emergency room hit an all-time high last weekend with 140 COVID-19 patients. Of them, 83 percent were vaccinated and the remaining 17 percent were breakthrough cases.

“The average length of stay for someone who has is COVID-positive and has been vaccinated, is 2.5 days,” said Dan Weatherly, COO of Cape Fear Valley Health.

“So, if you are vaccinated and come up COVID-positive, you’re there for 2.5 days. If you’re unvaccinated and come to the hospital, your length of stay is closer to eight (days) and your percentage chance of being on a ventilator is much higher.”

Cape Fear Valley Health is now asking people with minor illnesses and injuries to visit an urgent care or primary care doctor instead.

The mask mandate for Cumberland County goes into effect Wednesday at 5 p.m. Because the mandate is considered a public nuisance abatement, the county will have more flexibility for enforcement.

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