Mask mandate lifted in NC

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May 15—Cooper

Sampson County's metrics improved in newest COVID-19 County Alert System, its two-week case rate and percent-positive tests each dropping. Overall, the North Carolina map was devoid of the "critical community spread" red in the color-coded report for the second consecutive time, improved status that saw the governor on Friday lift statewide mask mandates, mass gathering and capacity limits and social distancing requirements.

The move came in the wake of Thursday's guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that fully vaccinated individuals can safely do most activities without wearing a mask or the need to social distance from others.

The changes went into effect immediately Friday upon their announcement by Gov. Roy Cooper and North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy K. Cohen, M.D.

"We can take this step today because the science shows our focus on getting people vaccinated is working," said Cooper. "But to keep moving forward — and to make sure that we keep saving lives — more people need to get vaccinated."

"I am so proud of the incredible progress we have made in beating back this pandemic," Cohen added. "Vaccines continue to be incredibly effective at protecting individuals from this terrible virus. And as more and more people get vaccinated, the results show in our stable metrics with lower cases, lower hospitalizations, and lower deaths."

In accordance with the new CDC guidance, there will still be certain settings where masks and other safety measures will be required, including in child care, schools and camps as most children are either not yet vaccinated or are not yet eligible to be vaccinated. Everyone, including people who are fully vaccinated, will still be required to wear a mask in certain settings such as public transportation, health care settings like hospitals, doctor's offices and long-term care settings like nursing homes, and certain congregate settings like correctional facilities and homeless shelters, Cooper stated.

NCDHHS will continue to have strong public health recommendations for individuals to continue to protect one another until more people are vaccinated. People who are not vaccinated should wear a mask and maintain distance in all indoor public settings and in outdoor settings when they can't maintain six feet of distance.

Masks are strongly recommended for everyone at large crowded indoor events like sporting events and live performances, the NCDHHS stated.

NCDHHS recommends public facing businesses post signage reminding guests to social distance and wear a face covering if they are not fully vaccinated; remind employees to self-monitor for symptoms of COVID-19; have a plan to immediately isolate and remove sick workers; and clean high-touch surfaces once a day. Businesses may choose to continue to require that their customers wear masks.

Sampson improves

Sampson is light yellow (moderate) under the new County Alert, released May 13, which utilized data from April 25 to May 8. The alert is issued every two weeks by the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS).

The County Alert System uses a combination of three metrics: case rate (number of new cases in 14 days per 100,000 people), the percent of tests that are positive over 14 days, and hospital impact within the county.

According to the May 13 report, Sampson's 14-day case rate for the two-week period of April 25 to May 8 was 229.8 per 100,000 people, down considerably from the 343.1 rate in the April 29 report, and even the 288 rate in the April 15 report.

The 14-day percent-positive in Sampson stood at 4.7% under the new report, another sizable drop from the 6.8% in the April 29 report and the 5.4% in the April 15 report. Sampson's cases were deemed to have a "minimal impact" on local hospitals.

Under the May 13 report, 60 counties are in the same tier as the previous report, issued April 29, while 32 counties have dropped down a tier (toward green) since the last report and eight counties have moved up a tier (toward red).

Under the May 13 report, several counties dropped to a lower tier (toward green). There are no red counties, 19 orange counties, 56 yellow counties, 24 light yellow counties, and one green county. In comparison, the previous April 29 report showed no red counties, 30 orange counties, 56 yellow counties, 24 light yellow counties and one green county.

Red denotes critical community spread/impact; orange is substantial spread; yellow is significant spread; light yellow is moderate; and green is low impact. Under the new report, 56 counties are in the same tier as the previous report, 34 counties have moved up a tier (toward red) since the last report and 10 counties have moved down a tier (toward green).

Vaccinations

In Sampson County, close to one in four people are now fully vaccinated, with approximately 24.8% having full vaccination status and 27.8% of the county's population being at least partially vaccinated.

In Sampson, 17,641 first doses and 15,746 second doses had been administered as of Friday, according to the NCDHHS COVID-19 Dashboard.

According to the dashboard, the state has administered more than 7.7 million doses to date — 51.2% of those 18 and up are at least partially vaccinated, and 45.9% are fully vaccinated. In total, 40.6% are at least partially vaccinated across the state, while 36.2% of the total population are fully vaccinated.

The county has no vaccinations events currently planned.

Office appointments are still available by calling 910-490-1056 or 910-592-1131 ext. 9001. To find a shot in your area, visit Find a Vaccine Location or call 888-675-4567. For more information and vaccination data, visit the NCDHHS COVID-19 Dashboard.

As of Thursday, there were 21,524 COVID-19 tests performed in Sampson. To date, the tests have resulted in 13,434 negatives and 8,090 positives. There have been 111 deaths attributed to COVID-19 in Sampson to date, with two additional deaths reported this week.

Statewide as of Friday, laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 cases to date totaled 989,338, including 1,501 newly-reported cases, according to NCDHHS COVID-19 Dashboard. The state tallied 12,862 deaths due to COVID-19 as of Friday. There were 926 hospitalized across the state.

Editor Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 2587.

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