SOUTHEASTERN N.C. — Covid-19 cases continue a four-week trend upward in the tri-county region, reaching percent-positivity rates last seen during Covid-heavy winter months. New Hanover is now at 11.04%, Brunswick at 16.73% and Pender at 14.96%, far above health officials desire to remain at 5% or below.
The recent trajectory in cases has turned the conversation back toward face-covering mandates, after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended last month people in areas of high transmissibility wear masks indoors, regardless of vaccination status. The delta variant is the cause for the current rise in numbers, as health officials have noted the strain of Covid-19 is more infectious, ably reaching up to six people for every one person carrying the virus.
Though there are no statewide or countywide mask mandates in place for the public-at-large currently, the rise in numbers has the private and public sectors weighing how to move forward with policies in their own institutions.
New Hanover County announced last week all visitors in county buildings will be required to wear masks, regardless of vaccination. Though no such policies have been implemented in Brunswick or Pender county buildings yet, Brunswick spokesperson Meagan Kascsak said the county continues to encourage its employees to get vaccinated and asks those who choose against vaccination to wear a mask.
Pender County follows the same stance, according to spokesperson Tammy Proctor.
“[Brunswick] County is continuing to monitor the state of the disease in our communities and review its pandemic response plan,” Kascsak wrote in an email to Port City Daily.
Meanwhile businesses like Gravity Records are taking their own approach. Owner Matt Keen announced Monday that all customers entering his Castle Street shop will be required to wear a mask until further notice. According to Keen, his staff never stopped wearing masks, despite Gov. Roy Cooper lifting the mandate in May.
“Masks aren’t perfect and they aren’t fun to wear or lose business over, but they do add some protection for yourself and more importantly others,” Keen said. “This is the right thing to do.”
Ready to put the pandemic behind him, Keen had to shutter his business (which turned 17 last week) for five months last spring into summer, and relegated to only curbside operations — a model he said he does not want to revisit. Striking a balance of keeping his employees and customers safe and his business open hasn’t been easy over the last year; he said this latest announcement hasn’t received much pushback, other than the “usual local news social-media comment sections.”
“We all have to work together for this,” Keen said. “The sooner we do, the sooner life can return to some semblance of normal.”
Below is a running list of places that require or “request” customers to wear masks, even vaccinated individuals. The CDC has clarified anyone without a vaccination should wear a mask always when in public.
It’s safe to presume all medical facilities require them as well.
The list will be updated as more are added; contact firstname.lastname@example.org to include a location.
Acme Art Studio’s Fourth Friday Show
Angie’s Hair and Records
Bourgie Nights (except when actively drinking)
Brunswick County Schools
Cameron Art Museum
Cape Fear Community College
Cape Fear Public Utility Authority
Circle K (*requests only)
Emerge Ortho Health Facilities
FedEx (23rd Street)
Home Depot (*requests only)
Lowe’s Home Improvement (*requests only)
Mon Âme Chocolate & Wine Bar (except when actively drinking)
New Hanover County Buildings
New Hanover County Schools
New Hanover Regional Medical Center
Palate (*requests only)
Panacea Brewing Company (except when actively eating or drinking)
Satellite Bar and Lounge (except when actively eating or drinking)
Target (*requests only)
Thalian Hall (except when actively eating or drinking)
Walmart (*requests only)
Wilmington International Airport
Wilson Center (except when actively eating or drinking)
Have tips or comments? Email email@example.com
Port City Daily offers all Covid-19 coverage for free. However, we value the time and effort our journalists put into their work. If you agree, please, consider a monthly subscription for access to all of PCD’s in-depth reporting, and sign up for the free morning newsletter.