DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) – As COVID hospitalizations have gone up in Durham County, the CDC has moved the county into the Orange zone, which is a high-risk category for COVID spread. 

Currently, Durham has the highest level of COVID spread in the state and it is the only county in the state to be shaded orange in two months.

This shift is due to recent increases in new COVID-19 hospital admissions per 100,000 population. 

As of May 27, Durham has more than 200 cases and more than ten COVID patients admitted into hospitals for every 100,000 people who live in the county.

“It’s not the designation that we want to have, but we expected to have the ebb and flow of these designations as we continue to live and function with COVID-19,” said Rod Jenkins, Heath Director for the Durham County Department of Public Health.  

While the CDC recommends those who live in high-risk counties to wear masks while indoors, Jenkins said as of right now he is not recommending a mask mandate for the county. 

“I am not recommending a mask mandate in Durham County because my commitment has been to recommend that when we see a sustained level of increases in COVID 19 infections for an extended period of time,” Jenkins said. 

Jenkins said other factors go into that decision as well, for instance, those include if there was an increase in COVID-19 infections in cases and a sustained number of COVID deaths. 

Even though Jenkins said he is not recommending the county reinstate a mask mandate, he is recommending people in Durham County wear masks while indoors. 

“If anything, I want the community to know that COVID-19 is not over,” Jenkins said. “The pandemic is not over. We still have to remain vigilant and we have to use every tool in our tool kit to keep ourselves, our families, and our coworkers safe.” 

Khedron Mims, owner of Rivals Barbershop on North Mangum, said he was concerned after hearing that Durham is in the orange zone again. 

“We’ve been through a lot dealing with COVID,” Mims said. 

As of right now, he said he does not plan to require his customers or staff wear masks, but he is prepared to do so if the county calls for it. 

“It feels like a setback, it makes us think this is really not over,” Mims said. “It’s something we’ve got to continue to live with and monitor all the time.” 

At Jack Tar and the Colonel’s Daughter restaurant in downtown Durham, co-owner Jay Owens said they are not requiring customers wear masks right now, but he said they are requiring all staff members wear masks again. 

“We’re trying to protect our staff and stay open,” Owens said. 

Owens said they have already had some employees out because they have caught COVID, which he said has made it tough because they are already short staffed.  

“There is a certain sensibility that it’s not going away,” Owens said. “So we have to be ready to move on the fly, keep going forward, and keep our places open and keep everybody employed.”