Durham city and county declare new COVID-19 state of emergency focusing on face masks


DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) — As COVID-19 cases continue to surge along with hospitalizations, Durham city and county officials announced Saturday a new “state of emergency.”

Officials cited the delta variant of COVID-19 as a key factor for initiating new measures under the state of emergency, which will go into effect at 5 p.m. Monday.

“We want to do everything we can to take care of people and not take a chance on this not getting any worse,” Durham County Board of Commissioners Chairwoman Brenda Howerton said. 

The state of emergency appears to focus mainly on face coverings and masks. It does not include any business closings, limited hours or travel restrictions.

“Face coverings must be worn in any indoor public place, business or establishment,” the new state of emergency says.

Face coverings must be worn even if a person has been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, officials said.

The general manager at Mother & Sons restaurant,  Jarrod Gatewood, says his staff is already wearing masks and he wants to do whatever he can to keep the business open. 

“It’s just all about adaptation. Doing what we can as quickly as we can and as much as we can and hoping we can just get through it,” Gatewood said. “I think if it prevents stricter measures in the future, in the coming weeks then absolutely, I’m all for it.” 

Authorities listed 10 exceptions for when masks should not be worn, including people who have trouble breathing, children under 5 or people who are eating or drinking.

Other exceptions include people working from home or in a personal vehicle.

Howerton says enforcement is on an honor system. 

“Were asking people on their own to think about their safety and the safety of their loved ones,” she said.

The new measure touches on COVID-19 vaccinations, but does not require them.

While many agree with the new mandate if it means keeping the city open, others want masks to stay optional.

“We never really stopped doing masks just for the fact that we have some older clients, so we wanted to make sure that they were protected,” salon owner Tianitia Davis said. 

“I really think it should be up to the individual, you know, and the same thing about the shot,” visitor William Jason Collins said. 

The state of emergency declaration says officials “urge everyone to get vaccinated against COVID-19 in the hope that increased vaccinations levels will continue to reduce infection rates and additional restrictions will not be needed.”

Click here to read the full declaration from Durham officials

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