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Some NC cities move towards looser COVID-19 regulations as cases, hospitalizations drop

<p>A photo of Ninth Street, off of Duke's East Campus. Durham County is continuing to enforce masking indoors.</p>

A photo of Ninth Street, off of Duke's East Campus. Durham County is continuing to enforce masking indoors.

In light of improving COVID-19 circumstances, several cities in North Carolina have made the decision to drop their mask mandates. 

Fayetteville Mayor Mitch Colvin officially rescinded the fifth amendment of the city’s state of emergency, which enforced indoor face coverings in public spaces and businesses, Oct. 29. The city also allowed its mask mandate to expire Nov. 1. 

Colvin pointed to “a significant decrease in hospitalizations” as grounds for this change, as well as declining positive test results.

"Personally, I'll still wear a mask and ask everyone to do that at their own discretion, but this is not something that the government has to mandate … we ask everyone to please get vaccinated, get your booster shots and still use masks as a precaution," Colvin said in an interview with ABC11.

Fayetteville joined the cities of Apex, Fuquay-Varina, Holly Springs, Cary and Wake Forest in loosening regulations.

Despite Fayetteville’s loosening of restrictions, the greater Cumberland County has retained its Public Health Abatement Order, which requires masks in all indoor public spaces regardless of vaccination status. 

“My Public Health (Nuisance) Abatement Order is still in place, which applies to the city of Fayetteville. So in effect, if you go into a business or a public space, you are required to wear a mask indoors when you're in a public setting,” said Jennifer Green, Cumberland County public health director.

Cary’s mask mandate expired Oct. 29. Mayor Harold Weinbrecht said this was due to high vaccination rates and a decline in cases. 

“When we reintroduced the mask requirement in response to the Delta variant case surge, I knew it was a lot to ask, but I had no doubt people here would continue to do the right thing, and they have,” Weinbrecht said in an interview with the News & Observer.

In addition to Cumberland County, Durham County and Wake County continue to enforce masking indoors. 

José Cabañas, Wake County’s chief medical officer, believes that despite trends going in the right direction, there is still a statistically significant level of transmission. 

“Wake County remains at a high level of community transmission of COVID-19,” Cabañas said in an Oct. 29 press release. “We need to see that drop to a moderate level before we can recommend lifting the mask mandate.”  

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines ‘moderate’ transmission as 20 to 50 cases per 100,000. While Wake County’s positivity rate is 3.45%, the county has 104 cases per 100,000 people. Durham County has a positivity rate of 2.95%, yet the county has had 103 cases per 100,000 people.

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