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Wake County, NC

Wake County votes to require masks in all county buildings starting Monday

ABC11 Eyewitness News
ABC11 Eyewitness News
 2021-07-31

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North Carolina, like many other states across the country, is seeing an uptick in COVID-19 cases.

CDC COVID-19 Transmission Levels by U.S. County

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5:02 p.m .

The Town of Garner is joining a growing number of North Carolina municipalities reimplementing restrictive guidelines in a COVID-19 pandemic response.

Effective Monday morning, the Town of Garner will reinstate the requirement that all staffers wear face coverings while inside Town facilities including Town Hall. All visitors to these buildings also will be required to wear face coverings while doing business in them and during Town Council and other public meetings. The Town will provide masks to those who do not have them.

As an additional measure, the Town's Public Works Department will arrange conference rooms, public spaces and the Council Chambers to encourage and support physical distancing.

4 p.m.

Kroger, the parent company of Harris Teeter, said it strongly encourages everyone to wear masks in its stores.

"In light of the Delta variant and updated CDC recommendations, we strongly encourage all individuals, including those who are vaccinated, to wear a mask when in our stores and facilities. We will continue to abide by all state and local mandates and encourage all Americans to get vaccinated, including our associates," a statement from the company said.

3:30 p.m.

Beginning August 2, City of Fayetteville Government employees and people inside City buildings will be required to wear masks. Also, people who ride inside City vehicles will be required to wear masks. Visitors are encouraged to schedule appointments before entering City Hall.

3:19 p.m.

Effective Monday, Publix is requiring associates, regardless of their vaccination status, to wear face coverings over their noses and mouths while inside any Publix location.

Customers and associates should remain physically distanced from others while inside any Publix store.

3 p.m.

The Housing Opportunities and Prevention of Evictions (HOPE) Program has announced program changes to accept referrals of tenants from landlords and increase financial awards to North Carolina households that apply for pandemic-related rent and utility assistance.

Landlords whose tenants are struggling to pay rent due to the pandemic can submit names and contact information using the HOPE Program website or by contacting the HOPE Call Center at 888-9ASK-HOPE (888-927-5467). A program specialist will then follow up with the tenant to help start the application process.

Also, starting Aug. 1, the HOPE Program monthly rent award limit will increase by 30%. Similarly, the utility award limit will increase by 100%. The new limits will apply to all new applications received, including applicants reapplying for assistance.

Information about the HOPE Program, including eligibility requirements, program benefits and an online application, is available at www.HOPE.NC.gov. Applicants who cannot access the website should call 888-9ASK-HOPE (888-927-5467) for help with the application process. The HOPE Call Center is open Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Both English- and Spanish-speaking representatives are available to assist callers. Applicants who applied for assistance during the first phase of the HOPE Program are eligible to reapply for additional help.

2:35 p.m.

The City of Raleigh announced that face coverings will be required inside city buildings beginning Monday, Aug. 2.

"We have always encouraged the wearing of masks as an important tool in helping slow the spread of COVID-19," said City Manager Marchell Adams-David. "In light of the highly contagious Delta variant, we are adopting updated CDC recommendations to wear face coverings indoors."

All City staff and members of the public will be required to wear face coverings in city facilities. A mask will be provided at building entrances for anyone who does not have one.

2:07 p.m.

The North Carolina Nurses Association reacted with a hands-off approach to recent hospital vaccination mandates.

"NCNA does not support or oppose employer vaccination policies because North Carolina is an employment-at-will state and it is not our mission to get involved in the employer/employee relationship," Dennis A. Taylor, president of the North Carolina Nurses Association told ABC11. "Vaccine-related conditions of employment are nothing new to nurses, and different facilities have enforced different versions of these type of policies for years.

"That being said: NCNA's Board of Directors is 100% vaccinated," he added. "The evidence has clearly demonstrated the safety and efficacy of the three COVID-19 vaccines and we encourage all of our colleagues to get vaccinated as soon as possible to help curb the spread of the coronavirus and keep our hospitals from being overwhelmed yet again. NCNA strongly feels the safety of patients, nurses, and communities should be the primary concern, which aligns with nursing's code of ethics."

1:31 p.m.

The Chatham County Public Health Department is urging all Chatham residents to get a COVID-19 vaccine as soon as possible and wear a face mask in public indoor spaces.

The spread of the Delta variant of COVID-19, among other factors, has led to rising case numbers in Chatham County, the health department said.

Chatham County meets the CDC's definition as an area of high transmission with 111 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 population during the past seven days, more than double the rate from the previous seven days. Additionally, 8.1% of the county's COVID-19 tests are coming back positive, a sharp increase from around 1% at the beginning of July.

"With the sharp increase in cases, we follow the CDC in recommending both unvaccinated and vaccinated residents wear a mask in public indoor spaces to protect themselves and others from the highly contagious delta variant," said Chatham County Public Health Director Mike Zelek. "This is especially important in crowded indoor spaces."

Everyone ages 12 and older is eligible to receive the Pfizer vaccine, and everyone ages 18 and older is eligible to receive the Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccines. Many options exist in Chatham County, including:

  • Chatham County Public Health Department clinic (Moderna): 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; 1000 S. Tenth Ave., Siler City
  • Goldston Town Hall (StarMed Healthcare) (Pfizer): 2-7 p.m.; 40 Coral Ave. #A, Goldston

1:03 p.m.

With hospitalizations increasing and the Delta variant spreading, Orange County has extended the local COVID-19 related State of Emergency declaration indefinitely, The extension went into effect July 23, at 5 p.m.

Orange County's percent positive rate of COVID tests was at 0.4 percent, the week of June 6-12, but has increased steadily since, reaching 1.3% for the week of July 4-10 and 2.9% for the week of July 11-17. Most of the new cases are amongst unvaccinated individuals and are caused by the rapidly spreading Delta variant.

12:25 p.m.

3,199 new COVID-19 cases were reported in North Carolina on Friday.

That's down slightly from Thursday when the state saw 3,268 new cases but still well above the 7-day average.

Thursday marked the first day above 3,000 since Feb. 25.

The percent of positive tests in the state is at 9.5%.

1,168 people are currently hospitalized with COVID-19.

That number has been steadily increasing since just after the July 4th weekend.

13,635 have been reported since the start of the pandemic.

In North Carolina, 4,866,247 people are at least partially vaccinated -- 50% of the full NC population and 61% of the adult population.

About 64,500 people in the state have received a vaccination since last Friday.

11:30 a.m.

A White House official said the US saw the highest number of newly vaccinated people on Thursday since July 1.

857,000 doses were reported administered over Thursday's total (vs. 600,000 last Friday). That includes 563,000 newly vaccinated, the highest since July 1. Over 190 million Americans have at least one dose. 69.6% of adults have at least one dose.

11:15 a.m.

Wake County will require everyone to wear a mask inside county buildings starting Monday, Aug. 2.

"What we're trying to do is make sure we always take the next right step," Wake County Board of Commissioners Chair Matt Calabria said.

Starting Monday, you will be required to wear a mask in all Wake County facilities regardless of vaccination status

"Infectious diseases aren't just an individual problem, they're a collective community problem. That's the case with COVID-19, where one person's choice can have a ripple effect," said Dr. Nicole Mushonga, Assistant Physician Director & Epidemiology Program Director of Wake County Public Health.

Despite having more than 70 percent of the adult population at least partially vaccinated, Wake County has still seen cases quadruple since June.

"The delta variant is different. It's 60 percent more contagious than the last variant and it spreads person to person 50 percent faster," Dr. Mushonga said.

Officials said the masks will help to prevent transmission but getting everyone vaccinated is the only way we'll put the pandemic behind us.

What's most important is if we can get people vaccinated if we can get people not to let their guard down, that will help us eradicate this virus," Chair Calabria said.

When it comes to Wake County schools, they will have to make their own decision for faculty students and staff.

11 a.m.

Small, rural hospitals in North Carolina will receive more than $4.9 million in federal funds to provide COVID-19 testing and mitigation efforts.

NCDHHS said nineteen hospitals will each receive up to $258,376. The money is earmarked to increase the hospitals' COVID-19 testing efforts, expand testing to rural communities and expand virus mitigation activities.

"This funding is key in providing an equitable response to COVID-19 in our rural communities. Rural hospitals are well-positioned as trusted health care providers in their communities to encourage COVID-19 vaccination and testing, especially in places where many people feel uncertain about getting vaccinated," said Maggie Sauer, Director of the Office of Rural Health at NCDHHS.

10:05 a.m.

The North Carolina Zoo will vaccinate some of its animals against COVID-19.

Our newsgathering partners at the News & Observer confirmed that 15 chimpanzees and seven gorillas will be inoculated with an experimental vaccine designed specifically for animals.

Full story

7:40 a.m.

Israel's prime minister on Thursday announced that the country would offer a coronavirus booster to people over 60 who have already been vaccinated.

The announcement by Naftali Bennett makes Israel, which launched one of the world's most successful vaccination drives earlier this year, the first country to offer a third dose of a Western vaccine to its citizens on a wide scale.

"I'm announcing this evening the beginning of the campaign to receive the booster vaccine, the third vaccine," Bennett said in a nationally televised address. "Reality proves the vaccines are safe. Reality also proves the vaccines protect against severe morbidity and death. And like the flu vaccine that needs to be renewed from time to time, it is the same in this case."

The decision comes at a time of rising infections and signs that the vaccine's efficacy dwindles over time.

7:35 a.m.

The Biden administration announced Thursday it will allow a nationwide ban on evictions to expire Saturday , arguing that its hands are tied after the Supreme Court signaled the moratorium would only be extended until the end of the month.

The White House said President Joe Biden would have liked to extend the federal eviction moratorium because of the spread of the highly contagious delta variant of the coronavirus. Instead, Biden called on "Congress to extend the eviction moratorium to protect such vulnerable renters and their families without delay."

"Given the recent spread of the delta variant, including among those Americans both most likely to face evictions and lacking vaccinations, President Biden would have strongly supported a decision by the CDC to further extend this eviction moratorium to protect renters at this moment of heightened vulnerability," the White House said in a statement. "Unfortunately, the Supreme Court has made clear that this option is no longer available."

Aides to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Sherrod Brown, the chairman of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs, said the two are working on legislation to extend the moratorium. Democrats will try to pass a bill as soon as possible and are urging Republicans not to block it.

7:30 a.m.

The Delta coronavirus variant surging across the United States appears to cause more severe illness and spread as easily as chickenpox, according to an internal document from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The document - a slide presentation - outlines unpublished data that shows fully vaccinated people might spread the Delta variant at the same rate as unvaccinated people.

CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky confirmed the authenticity of the document, which was first reported by The Washington Post.

"I think people need to understand that we're not crying wolf here. This is serious," she told CNN.

"It's one of the most transmissible viruses we know about. Measles, chickenpox, this -- they're all up there."

FRIDAY MORNING HEADLINES

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the Delta variant of COVID-19 is highly contagious -- likening it to things like chickenpox or the common cold.

That change is part of the basis for why the CDC updated its mask guidance to encourage even vaccinated people to wear masks indoors. Friday, the CDC is expected to release the data they have showing just how contagious the Delta variant really is.

SEE ALSO: Gov. Cooper says everyone in counties with high rates of spread should wear masks indoors

Everyone in a county with high rates of virus spread, including those who have been vaccinated, is encouraged to wear a mask inside, he said.

Local lawmakers and business owners are adjusting to the new mask guidelines Wake County leaders are set to talk about the mask guidance at a 10 a.m. meeting.

The pending mask adjustments come as COVID-19 cases are spiking across the country. In North Carolina, the most recent data showed 3,268 new cases Thursday.

THURSDAY

5:52 p.m.

Johnston County students and staffers will be under a mask-optional policy for the coming school year.

At a Special Called Session on Thursday, the Johnston County Board of Education voted 4-3 to make face coverings optional for all students and staff.

The school board did not immediately release any further details regarding the decision.

4:15 p.m.

President Joe Biden is urging local governments to offer $100 to those who get vaccinated with funding from the American Rescue Plan.

Biden will also announce Thursday that all federal government employees and outside contractors will be asked to "attest to their vaccination status," and those who aren't vaccinated must social distance, get tested once or twice a week and wear a mask at work no matter where they live. This includes members of the Armed Forces and National Guard.

3:30 p.m.

Gov. Roy Cooper and Secretary of Health and Human Services Dr. Mandy Cohen on Thursday announced all state government employees in his administration must prove their vaccination status or submit to regular testing for COVID-19 and wear a mask.

"Our trends have turned sharply in the wrong direction," he said ahead of that announcement.

Central North Carolina residents react to Cooper's announcement:

Andrea Blanford spoke to residents on Thursday.

Cooper said he "urges" and "implores" local businesses, corporations, universities, and other government agencies in the Council of State to adopt his administration's new protocols "at a minimum."

Cohen said there's a rapid rise in new COVID-19 cases in the state.

"This is because the COVID virus is now much, much more contagious," she said.

Cohen said that the original COVID spread from one person to an average of two to three people. But now, the Delta variant spreads from one person to an average of six people.

2:45 p.m.

Approximately one year ago, in late July of 2020, the U.S. had just experienced its COVID-19 summer surge and was beginning to see a downturn, after six weeks of steady increases throughout the late spring, and early summer.

On July 27, 2020, the U.S. average was averaging about 63,400 new COVID-19 cases a day, down from its peak of 68,000 cases reported a day, a week prior.

Now, a year later, on July 27, 2021, the U.S. case average is back at similar levels, now averaging nearly 62,000 new cases a day.

1 p.m.

A whopping 3,268 new COVID-19 cases were reported in North Carolina on Thursday.

That's a significant spike from Wednesday and well above the 7-day average.

The number of tests completed also shot up in the state to more than 29,000. That shows that more people in the state are worried they might have COVID.

The percent of positive tests in the state is 9.3%.

1,141 people are currently hospitalized in the state with COVID-19.

13,618 deaths have been reported since the beginning of the pandemic.

12:15 p.m.

"It's time to step up. It's time to get that shot now. Do not wait. Do it for yourself. Do it for your family. Do it for your friends. The shot is safe. The shot is effective," Gov. Roy Cooper said at a vaccine site in Nashville, North Carolina.

Cooper visited McDonald's in Nashville where the National Guard has set up a COVID-19 vaccination site.

The site allows people to get vaccinated without leaving their cars. People who got the shot also received a coupon for a free McDonald's sandwich.

Cooper spoke at the event but declined to talk about pending changes to the state's vaccination requirements or mask guidelines. Cooper will address those topics during his 3 p.m. press conference--which you can watch in the above video player or on ABC11.

Instead, Cooper praised North Carolinians who already received the vaccine and encouraged them to keep advocating for their friends and family to get vaccinated.

"People who are vaccinated I know are frustrated and mad right now because they have stepped up and done their part. But I want vaccinated people to encourage the unvaccinated now more than ever. Because vaccinated people can be some of our best messengers."

Cooper went on to say the only way to finally get back to what life was like before the virus is to get vaccinated.

"It's time for us to step up and put this pandemic in the rear-view mirror, and we can't do it until we get more people vaccinated."

8:45 a.m.

President Joe Biden will announce Thursday that millions of federal workers must show proof they've received a coronavirus vaccine or submit to regular testing and stringent social distancing, masking and travel restrictions.

An individual familiar with the president's plans, who spoke on condition of anonymity to confirm details that had yet to be announced publicly, emphasized that the new guidance is not a vaccine mandate for federal employees and that those who decide not to get vaccinated aren't at risk of being fired.

The new policy amounts to a recognition by the Biden administration that the government - the nation's biggest employer - must do more to boost sluggish vaccination rates, as coronavirus cases and hospitalizations rebound, driven largely by the spread of the more infectious delta variant.

THURSDAY MORNING HEADLINES

Gov. Roy Cooper is expected to share new COVID-19 guidelines when he speaks publicly this afternoon at 3.

Coronavirus cases are on the rise in North Carolina and across the country. New research on the highly contagious Delta variant shows even vaccinated people can spread it.

That new research prompted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to change its mask guidance--now suggesting that all people wear masks inside in areas where cases are prevalent.

The CDC also now suggests vaccinated people get tested for COVID-19 after they are exposed to a known positive case.

SEE ALSO: Some Triangle businesses reinstate mask mandate as COVID cases surge

But what do these changes mean for North Carolina? That's what we expect Gov. Cooper to address this afternoon.

Wednesday saw the state confirm more than 2,600 new cases, with a positivity rate of 10.8 percent. That's the second straight day above 10 percent and the highest daily case count since February.

Health experts continue to stress how important it is to get vaccinated. As the vast majority of all these cases, and even more so the cases that result in hospitalization, are among unvaccinated people.

WATCH: Healthcare worker has message for vaccine-resistant hospital workers

"If you want to work there, get the vaccine. If you don't want to work there, don't get the vaccine."

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