Gaston County government employees now have to mask up, regardless of their vaccination status.
The decision came after the county reported 127 new COVID-19 cases Thursday after having 133 on Wednesday.
At the Gaston County Courthouse, beginning Monday (Aug. 16th) everyone must wear a mask after Superior Court Judge David Phillips issued a court order.
The county will ask, but not require, those visiting other county buildings to wear a mask.
The city of Charlotte began requiring everyone to wear a mask in city government buildings-—whether vaccinated or not--starting Friday (Aug. 13th). Mecklenburg County made masks mandatory inside county buildings on Aug. 3rd.
On Friday, Governor Roy Cooper, NCDHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen and State Health Director Dr. Betsey Tilson sent a letter to school boards who have adopted a 'masks optional' policy urging them to reconsider.
“The science is clear that children learn better when they attend school in person and the science is also clear that masks reduce COVID infections so we can keep them there. The delta variant is moving fast and I strongly urge school leaders who have made masks optional to reconsider and make them mandatory,” said Governor Cooper.
“COVID-19 continues to spread rapidly through North Carolina,” said NCDHHS Chief Medical Officer and State Health Director Elizabeth Cuervo Tilson, MD, MPH. “Masking, helps protect the health and well-being of students and staff and helps keep everyone in school - teaching, learning, and thriving.”
The letter also emphasizes that vaccines remain the best weapon to fight the pandemic, but since children under 12 are ineligible they remain vulnerable.
Their advice is aligned with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and American Academy of Pediatrics guidance, which urges keeping students in schools for in-person learning while also mandating face masks indoors. NCDHHS says schools with students in kindergarten through twelfth grade should require all children and staff to wear masks indoors, regardless of vaccination status. This guidance became effective July 30th and was adopted by the State Board of Education.
To date, North Carolina has administered nearly 10 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccines, with 58 percent of the adult population fully vaccinated, but the fully vaccinated percentage in Lincoln, Gaston, Catawba and Cleveland counties is still lower than the state average.
North Carolina reported 6,628 new cases of COVID-19 Friday, after reporting 5,900 new cases Thursday, 4963 Wednesday, 2985 Tuesday.
Lincoln County had 48 new cases Thursday, 56 more on Friday. Gaston County had 127 Thursday, 178 Friday; Catawba County had 82 Thursday, 142 on Friday; Cleveland County 76 Thursday, 66 on Friday.
The $100 gift card incentive program to encourage people to get vaccinated, along with the signficant increase in new cases and hospitalizations, has seen vaccinations increase three-fold in some counties In Gaston County, they ran out of gift cards on Tuesday (Aug. 10th). They expect to get a new order in and begin distributing them to first dose recipients Monday afternoon August 16th.
In partnership with NCDHHS, the healh departments in Gaston & Cleveland counties began offering $100 gift cards to individuals 18 and older who get a first dose COVID-19 vaccine and a $25 dollar gift card to drivers 18 and older who transport someone to receive their first dose. The gift card program was only scheduled for the month of August.
Cleveland County has scheduled a first dose clinic at Palmer Grove Baptist Church at Kingstown for Friday August 27th that will also include (while supplies last) the gift card incentives. Pre-registrations for that clinic are being accepted. To register, call 980-295-6436 between 10 AM and 3 PM, or 704-692-1813 from 3 - 6 PM.