WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) – The New Hanover County Health and Human Services Board has voted to lift the countywide mask mandate effective immediately.
The board’s 8-4 vote followed an at times contentious public comment portion of its special meeting Friday morning.
New Hanover County Commission Chair Julia Olson-Boseman proposed the motion to repeal the indoor face coverings requirement after a motion that would have delayed any decision to mid-January failed to gain traction with board members.
At least four audience members were forcibly removed by deputies during the meeting. A speaker who went over his allotted time limit during the public comments portion of the meeting was the first to be removed.
“This is assault,” the man said as deputies escorted him out of the room.
“Let him speak,” “he’s exercising his constitutional rights,” several audience members chimed in as he was being removed.
Three audience members were also removed for being disruptive while board members asked questions of county health officials.
Also in attendance were members of the far-right extremist group Proud Boys, who made a public appearance during a New Hanover County Board of Education meeting earlier this week.
The school board was expected to take its monthly vote on whether masks should be optional or required. The board, which has previously voted to require masks for students and staff, pushed back its decision ahead of Friday’s Health and Human Services Board meeting.
One member, dressed in his black and yellow uniform, spoke to the board, calling its members “rational people” before reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. No members of the group have been removed from the meeting.
The board scheduled this meeting to reconsider the indoor face coverings requirement after several months of COVID-19-related metrics trending in a positive direction. Specifically, health officials pointed to a continued percent positivity rate below 5 percent.
The health rule was put in place in August as coronavirus case counts, hospitalizations, and percent positivity rates were spiking.
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