Lincoln County's active cases of COVID-19 is still less than surrounding counties, but like most of the rest of North Carolina and much of the nation, the number of cases is increasing. Lincoln County has now had 338 people test positive for the disease; of those, 255 are said to have recovered, two died, and there are 81 known active cases as of Wednesday (July 8th). 45 people who have been tested are awaiting the results of their tests.
The Cleveland County Health Department reported that county's seventh death associated with COVID-19 after an individual in the 25-49 age bracket died Monday (July 6th). Cleveland County Health Director Tiffany Hansen said the person had an underlying health condition.
“My heart is heavy as we announce yet another death of a Cleveland County resident," Hansen said. "It feels as though we are losing one community member after another to this relentless virus. This marks our fifth death in just two short weeks.”
The sixth death in Cleveland County came Sunday (July 5th). That victim was over age 65 and also had other health conditions. The fifth, who passed on June 29th, was in the 50-64 age range; the fourth, who died June 27th was in the 50-64 bracket; and the third, who died June 23rd, was in the 25-49 age range. All had other health conditions.
To help fight the disease spread, Cleveland County will have a free cloth mask distribution event this Thursday (July 9th) beginning at 9 AM and lasting until 4 PM or until all the available masks are given out. It will be at the LeGrand Center, 1800 E. Marion St. (US74-business) in Shelby.
As of Wednesday afternoon, Cleveland County had 92 active cases, 295 recovered, 10 currently hospitalized and 393 positive tests.
Gaston County's active case count increased to over 600 for the first time Monday. There are now 624 people with active cases of COVID-19 in Gaston County. 840 people are said to have recovered, but the county has now had 16 deaths. Gaston County has had 10,544 confirmed positive cases of the disease.
Catawba County had 35 more cases of the disease reported on both Tuesday and Wednesday bringing that county's number of active cases to 575. Catawba County has had 492 recover while 14 people died. The number hospitalized, which had reached 20 on Tuesday was 16 on Wednesday.
UPDATE: Catawba County Public Health is investigating a newly identified outbreak of COVID-19 at Abernethy Laurels in Newton, where three residents and two staff members have tested positive for the virus. The facility is informing patients, their family members, and staff about the situation.
This is the sixth congregate care facility outbreak identified in Catawba County. In a congregate living setting, a COVID-19 outbreak is defined as two or more laboratory-confirmed cases.
The facility previously responded to an outbreak that involved three individuals. That outbreak has since been resolved.
“We are deeply concerned about how difficult preventing the spread of COVID-19 is proving to be in Catawba County,” said Catawba County Public Health Director Jennifer McCracken. “COVID-19 is spreading before people even realize they are infected. This is significantly increasing our local case numbers countywide and, as we have seen in the past few days, continuing to impact our most vulnerable residents.
“I cannot stress enough that the majority of our local cases are coming from contacts within the community,” McCracken continued. “It is especially important for us to take precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19, particularly to health care workers and others who care for those living in congregate care facilities every day.”
The facility has conducted additional testing and is working closely with Public Health to ensure control measures are in place to help prevent further spread of the disease.
In Mecklenburg County, 156 people have died and 13,000 people have tested positive for the disease. After stabilizing briefly, the percent of cases testing positive in the county is also increasing.
Despite the advice of medical experts, many continue to consider the COVID-19 pandemic a hoax and have made not wearing a mask a political statement.
Their refusal may or may not have helped the spread of the disease. It is certain that activities in which people disregarded wearing masks and maintaining social distancing has contributed to the sharp increase in cases in much of the South and West.
Even the Governor of Texas, who had previously not endorsed wearing masks, has changed his position after his state recorded record increases. Medical professionals believe that the current increase is in part related to activities of Memorial Day weekend, and they expect that similar--and even more--activities the July 4th weekend will likely cause another big increase in cases over the next 2-3 weeks.
While masks are now required in North Carolina, many sheriffs--including Lincoln County Sheriff Bill Beam and Catawba County Sheriff Don Brown have said they won't enforce the requirement. The Lincolnton City Council adopted a resolution in favor of the Governor's mask requirement and City Police were instructed to enforce the mandate by citing businesses who flaunted the rule. So far, only one business, Burton Farms produce on E. Main Street, has been cited.
North Carolina is one of many states that have a statewide mask mandate, but the rules and the enforcement varies widely. Others with a mask requirement include Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsvylvania, Rhode Island and Washington (state).
Virginia's Democratic Governor Ralph Northam issued an executive order similar to Roy Cooper's in North Carolina. One difference is that while the Virginia edict carries no penalty for individuals; it concentrates on businesses. “Any willful violation or refusal, failure, or neglect to comply” with the mandate would be punishable as a Class 1 misdemeanor, the full document read — an offense that can carry up to 12 months in jail and a fine of up to $2,500. Just like in North Carolina, many sheriffs have refused to enforce the order.
In Hawaii, violators could face a fine up to $5,000 or imprisonment for not more than one year, or both, according to the order by Gov. David Ige. Violators in New Mexico face a possible $100 fine.
Californians living in several cities could face hundreds of dollars in fines if they venture out in public without masks.
Authorities in Santa Monica, West Hollywood, Beverly Hills and Monterey announced they'll enforce California Gov. Gavin Newsom's mask mandate by citing people who don't cover their face in public.
"Our last option was to conduct enforcement by issuing an Administrative Citation, but the risk to Community health is too great," said Captain Edward Ramirez of the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department. The fine in West Hollywood is $250 plus a $50 fee -- and that's just for the first offense.
West Virginia's Republican Governor Jim Justice announced a mandatory face mask order Monday (July 6th) after the state reported record numbers of new coronavirus cases over the weekend.
South Carolina's Republican Governor Henry McMaster said in a news conference late last month that he will not enact a face mask mandate.
“It is impractical to have a mandate to have everyone wear a mask, because it is not enforceable,” McMaster said, adding that issuing a mandate to wear a mask and not be able to enforce it gives a false sense of security for those who believe that everybody is following the rules.
“There’s no power on Earth that can follow everyone in the state around to be sure that they are following the rules,” he said. McMaster did say that he had no objection to towns, cities and counties passing a local mask ordinance "if they think they can enforce it." Many have.
Not wearing a mask in Myrtle Beach could get you a $100 fine. Business there who don't comply could lose their license to operate. In Columbia, not wearing a mask is now a civil infraction with a fine up to $25. Those not complying will likely be given warnings first.
A $25 fine for individuals who aren't wearing a mask and $100 for businesses who aren't requiring employees and customers to do so is the most popular penalty in South Carolina. That's the case in Columbia, Conway, Greenville, Mt. Pleasant, North Myrtle Beach and Spartanburg.
In Bluffton, Charlteston, Port Royal, Sumter & Georgetown the fine is $50. Georgetown County has a $25 fine, and Richland County's fine is $25 for individuals, $100 per day for businesses. That's also the penalty in Clemson. In Sullivan's Island, the fine is $100 for individuals, $25 per employee for businesses. Chester has a $25 fine; Florence, $100; and in Hilton Head, individuals and businesses face a possible $500 fine and up to 30 days in jail. Other South Carolina mask requirements are in effect in Rock Hill, Beaufort, Beaufort County, Charleston County, Horry County & Lexington.
In Ohio, Repubican Governor Mike DeWine issued an executive order very similar to Roy Cooper's in North Carolina, and just like in North Carolina, some law enforcement agencies have said they won't enforce the rules. That has resulted in some cities taking further action.
In Columbus, the City Council passed a resolution Monday (July 6th) replacing an executive order by the mayor and providing that people and businesses who do not follow the new rule could face a civil citation. Columbus Public Health will enforce the mask requirement. If a person violates the ordinance, they will be warned the first time and fined $25 for the second and any other future violations. If the rule is not followed by businesses, there will be a warning for a first-time violation, a $500 fine for a second violation and a $1,000 fine for a third and any future violations.
Those encouraging everyone who can to wear a face covering now includes the leading national association of retailers, who want all state governors to mandate wearing face masks.
The Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA) on Tuesday (July 7th) sent a letter to the National Governors Association in which it urged every governor to require customers to wear a mask when entering a retail store or other enclosed public space.
The letter encourages uniform, statewide orders “to create clarity for businesses, customers and law enforcement,” noting that different rules around the country have made it confusing for shoppers and often lead to arguments between customers and store employees who trying to enforce policies.
UPDATE: The state of New Jersey and the city of Atlanta added a requirement Thursday that facial coverings also be worn in outdoor settings unless social distancing could be maintained. The Mountain State Fair, usually held each year in Fletcher (near Asheville) has been cancelled for 2020. So far, the Lincoln County Apple Festival is still scheduled for October and the Apple Queen Pageant for August 8th.