Wake County Using Data Tracker That Will Signal End of Mask Mandate
Although the late summer COVID-19 surge is waning, Wake County Public Health says it’s still too soon to lift the mask mandate. They’re basing this determination on two key metrics – the rate of positive cases of the virus in Wake County and the level of transmission, which is tracked by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The CDC has indicated that mask wearing is appropriate any time the community transmission is high. Community transmission is measured by the percent positivity and the total number of new cases per every 100,000 residents per day over a seven-day period.
“Currently, our positivity rate is 3.45%, which is great, because it’s below the desired 5% threshold,” said Dr. José Cabañas, the county’s Chief Medical Officer, “but Wake County remains at a high level of community transmission of COVID-19. We need to see that drop to a moderate level before we can recommend lifting the mask mandate.”
Wake County is currently seeing nearly 104 cases per 100,000 people, which places it in the CDC’s highest category for community transmission. The CDC defines a “moderate” level of community transmission to be fewer than 50.
Dr. Cabañas and other county public health leaders shared this insight with officials from Wake County and all 12 municipalities earlier this week. Based on the data presented, Wake County and the towns of Garner, Knightdale, Morrisville, Rolesville and Zebulon will continue the current mask mandate, which requires residents to wear a face-covering while inside businesses or other public spaces.
Passed on Aug. 18 of this year, the original mandate provided that it would be continually reevaluated in light of the trending percent positive rate, level of community spread and recommendations by Federal, State and local public health authorities.
The City of Raleigh is maintaining its own mask mandate. Together, the unincorporated areas of Wake County and these six municipalities comprise approximately 68% – more than two-thirds – of the county’s total population.
Wake County Public Health officials announced today that the mandate will remain in effect until the trending positivity rate of COVID-19 is less than 5% and the case rate is less than 50 new cases per 100,000 people per day over a seven-day period, marking moderate community transmission per the CDC.
To help residents follow these key indicators, Wake County has added a new section on its COVID-19 webpage, which links directly to up-to-date CDC data. This new feature allows residents to easily check the county’s positive case rate and see when transmission drops from high to moderate on the CDC map. Wake County must reach both data points to safely lift the mask mandate.
“By putting this tracking tool in place, we empower our residents to monitor the same data our public health experts are analyzing, so we’ll all know when it’s safe to lift the mask mandate in the future,” said Wake County Board of Commissioners Chair Matt Calabria.
Wake County Public Health understands that many people have mask fatigue but continue to wear face coverings to protect themselves and others. WCPH applauds their efforts and wants the public to know that it projects the county will meet the designated metrics to rescind the mask mandate in a few weeks.
Long-Term Impacts of COVID-19
While Wake County’s trends are going in the right direction and the death rate due to COVID-19 has decreased, public health leaders remain concerned about the long-term health effects of COVID-19 on those infected with the virus, also known as “long COVID.”
“Some patients are still experiencing health issues weeks and months after recovering from the virus,” said Wake County Associate Medical Director Dr. Nicole Mushonga. “It’s one of the many reasons why wearing a mask and not spreading the virus is so critical to our community’s overall success at bouncing back from the pandemic.”
The long-term impacts of the virus can affect all the body’s systems. Symptoms can vary from difficulty breathing, change in smell or taste, dizziness, fever, and chest or stomach pain. As of July 2021, long COVID is considered a disability under the American with Disabilities Act.
In addition to wearing masks, Wake County Public Health strongly encourages residents to get vaccinated. No-cost COVID-19 vaccines are available to anyone 12 and older and very soon for those 5 and older at more than 200 providers in Wake County by appointment or walk-in. Visit wakegov.com/vaccine to learn more.