From WSJ Staff Reports —
In response to declining COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations and today’s pronouncement by Gov. Roy Cooper in support of lifting mask requirements, the Town of Wake Forest will no longer require visitors to Town Hall and other Town facilities to wear masks or face coverings effective immediately.
Moving forward, the decision to wear a mask will be left to the discretion of each visitor to Town Hall and all other Town facilities, including the Wake Forest Renaissance Centre and all indoor parks and recreation facilities (Joyner Park Community Center, Flaherty Park Community Center, Alston-Massenburg Center, and Wake Forest Community House).
After months of carefully monitoring COVID-19 metrics, Wake County Government will be lifting its mask mandate, joined by the City of Raleigh and the towns of Garner, Knightdale, Rolesville and Zebulon. These mandates will be removed effective 5 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 25. Leaders in the town of Morrisville are currently consulting with their full board on rolling back their mandate as well. The towns of Apex, Cary, Fuquay-Varina, Holly Springs, Wake Forest and Wendell no longer had mask mandates in place.
Wake County Public Health officials advised that they felt comfortable with county and municipal leaders rescinding the mask mandates next Friday, a timeline that will give businesses and schools an opportunity to adjust to the change.
“Some employers may need additional time to set new policies for their staff or remove masking signage, and we want to respect that,” said Chair of the Wake County Board of Commissioners Sig Hutchinson after speaking to municipal mayors. “We initially put this mandate in place to weather the worst of the COVID-19 storm, which we hope is now behind us.”
The Omicron variant demonstrated that public health departments should consider not just case counts but also the severity of the virus. The good news is the death rate and number of hospitalizations in Wake County are down, and the vaccination rate is high.
Currently, 190 people with the virus are hospitalized in Wake County. That’s a nearly 54% decrease from Jan. 30, 2022, when the Omicron surge peaked here. Vaccination rates are also up. Of Wake County residents 12 and older, a remarkable 89% have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. For more analytics, visit wakegov.com/covid19.
Masking as a mitigation tool has proven effective in helping minimize transmission. Use of masks should be supported by all who want to use them and are recommended for:
- Those at-risk for severe disease like the elderly or those with underlying medical conditions
- Individuals not up to date on their vaccinations
- Anyone in large indoor gatherings
- Those living or working in high-risk settings like hospitals or nursing homes
- Public transportation and air travel, per federal guidance
Employers are free to maintain mask mandates on their premises and are encouraged to make the choices they believe best fit their circumstances. Some rooms within Wake County Government buildings, such as public health clinics, homeless shelters, detention facilities or courtrooms, may still require employees and visitors to wear masks.
Town officials will continue to monitor COVID-19 and make adjustments to protocol as conditions warrant.