NEW HANOVER COUNTY — Even folks who have a vaccine will be required to cover their faces when entering a New Hanover County building as of Friday, Aug. 6, 8 a.m. The county manager signed off on a mandatory mask policy Thursday. It requires all county employees and visitors to mask up when inside county facilities; the mandate does not apply to those congregating outside on county properties.
The requirement comes in light of Covid-19 cases surging because of the more infectious delta variant. Public health has reported 383 new cases in the last week, with a total of 784 active throughout the community, according to a county release.
Approved by county manager Chris Coudriet, the mask policy first went into effect last June and expired upon the governor’s suggestion of lifting the mandate in May 2021.
“With the recent increases in viral spread tied to the Delta variant, vital county services for our community are put at risk if employees are exposed or infected,” Coudriet said in the release.
Coudriet said prioritizing public safety remains a top priority; his decision to reinstate the mask policy came upon the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) recommendation for all people, both vaccinated and unvaccinated, to cover their faces indoors in areas of high transmissibility and with substantial cases. The CDC has New Hanover County currently at a 7.99% positivity rate; health officials’ goal is to remain under 5%.
The policy specifies that masks are to cover both nose and mouth. The face coverings can be made from any material but should have at least two layers; plastic shields are not acceptable. The coverings should be washed frequently for proper sanitization purposes, and switched out if stretched, damaged or have holes.
“The CDC notes that those who should not wear face coverings include: children under 2 years of age, a person with a disability who cannot wear a face covering, or cannot safely wear a face covering, for reasons related to the disability, and a person for whom wearing a face covering would create a risk to workplace health, safety, or job duty as determined by the workplace risk assessment,” according to the release.
County employees who wish to discuss any exemption are instructed to contact human resources; however, any employee without exemption refusing to wear a mask will face disciplinary action.
The county will provide masks to those entering county-owned buildings without one. The policy also instructs employees still provide “superior customer service” to citizens who refuse to follow the policy by suggesting an alternative form of service, whether providing curbside or online options.
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