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Orange Co. To Reinstate Indoor Mask Mandate As State Hospitalizations Continue To Rise

A business in San Antonio posts a reminder about face masks. The city is one of a growing number of localities and states mandating that face coverings be worn in public.
A business in San Antonio posts a reminder about face masks. The city is one of a growing number of localities and states mandating that face coverings be worn in public.

Orange County is reinstating an indoor mask mandate Wednesday at 5 p.m. It applies inside all public places and public transportation.

With 76% of its population fully vaccinated against COVID-19, Orange County has one of the highest vaccination rates in the state. But officials are nonetheless reporting a "surge" in infections mostly among unvaccinated people.

At the end of June, new COVID cases in the county were in the single digits, but 235 new cases were reported during just the first week of August.

The new mask mandate applies to anyone 2 years and older, regardless of vaccination status.

"With cases of COVID-19 and its Delta variant surging across Orange County and the nation, we are issuing a mandate requiring adults and children to wear face coverings while inside any building," said Renee Price, Chair of the Orange County Board of Commissioners, in a statement. "This step is essential if we hope to slow the spread of the Delta variant."

The mandate does not apply to individuals diagnosed with a medical or behavioral condition or disability, including difficulty breathing; children under 2; children under 5 whose parents cannot keep a face covering on the child's face; anyone who is actively eating or drinking, among other exceptions.

The Orange County mandate comes as the state experienced the largest single day jump in hospital ICU admissions since the beginning of the pandemic.

Weekly COVID-19 hospitalizations among people ages 20-49 are at an all-time high, according to state officials. ICU admissions related to COVID-19 statewide jumped to 557 Monday from 502 on Sunday.

Overall, 2,179 people were hospitalized due to COVID-19, with 272 people admitted in the past 24 hours, according to datareported to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.

"These high-levels of COVID-related admissions jeopardize the ability of our hospitals to provide needed care in our communities," said Chief Deputy Secretary Kody H. Kinsley. "The vast majority of our COVID-19 hospitalizations are in unvaccinated people. This underscores the need for everyone to be vaccinated against the virus and use preventative measures to slow the spread of COVID-19."

Copyright 2021 North Carolina Public Radio

Amy is the incoming Daily News Editor at WUNC in Chapel Hill where she manages day-to-day coverage of everything from gerrymandering to rogue emus.
Elizabeth “Liz” Baier is WUNC’s Digital News Editor. She joined the station in May 2016 after eight year of reporting for Minnesota Public Radio News where she covered everything from demographic changes in rural America, agriculture, the environment and health care. Prior to that, Liz worked for six years as a newspaper reporter in South Florida, both at the Miami Herald and South Florida Sun-Sentinel.