RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Orange County is now expanding its mask mandate to private businesses.
The countywide mask mandate is effective Wednesday at 5 p.m. Under the new rule, anyone 2 years and older, regardless of vaccination status, must wear a mask in all indoor settings.
“This step is essential if we hope to slow the spread of the Delta variant. While we ask all residents to take this precaution, more importantly, if you know individuals who have been reluctant to get the vaccine, please take them to a vaccination site to get their shot and protect yourself and your family members, friends and neighbors,” said Renee Price, Chair of the Orange County Board of Commissioners, in a statement Tuesday afternoon.
The mandate does not apply for the following people:
- Anyone with a diagnosed medical or behavioral condition or disability, including difficulty breathing
- Children under two (2) years of age
- Children under five (5) years of age and their parent, guardian, or responsible person has been unable to place and maintain a Face Covering safely on the child’s face
- Anyone who is actively eating or drinking
- Anyone who is seeking to communicate with someone who is hearing impaired in a way that requires the mouth to be visible
- Anyone who is giving a speech or performance for a broadcast or to an audience where they maintain a distance of at least twenty (20) feet from the audience
- Anyone who is working alone in an individual office setting (however, such person(s) shall apply a Face Covering when in common areas such as breakrooms, hallways, restrooms, or other areas where additional persons may be encountered)
- Anyone who has determined the Face Covering is impeding their visibility in the operation of equipment or a vehicle
Last week, the county mandated masks for visitors and staff inside government buildings. The requirement is in place indefinitely. The county pointed to the recent surge in COVID-19 cases as a result of the delta variant for its update.
Chapel Hill Mayor Pam Hemminger said in a statement, “It is deeply frustrating and concerning to see our numbers on the rise again – especially after many in our community have worked so hard to keep COVID from spreading.”
The county noted most of its cases were now in the 25-49 age group. It said the 18-24 age group had the second-most cases.
In the last month, the county’s COVID-19 situation has deteriorated. The last week alone saw an 85-percent increase in COVID-19 cases. Hospitalizations went up 12-percent in the last week. The concern has shown up in the testing number. Sixty-three percent more people got tested for COVID-19 in the last week. The CDC has labeled Orange County as a “high-transmission” area.
At the same time, the county has the second-highest percentage of residents with at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. Close to 70 percent of residents are at least partially vaccinated. It was beaten out by Martin County, which has an 86-percent vaccination rate.