Raleigh mayor debates relaxing COVID mask mandate

Raleigh Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin wants to see if the city can relax its mask mandate while keeping people safe from COVID-19.

She asked staff to look for ways to ease restrictions on gyms and small retail outlets after hearing from residents and businesses struggling with the warrant.

“I’m struggling with this because I’m trying to strike a balance,” she said at a recent Raleigh city council meeting. “And hopefully after the staff researches this, we can make some adjustments based on what we see other communities doing.”

On Friday, she said the city did not have a timetable.

“They’re doing some research, or we’ll be doing some research on that to see if there’s a way to, I don’t know, balance that out a bit,” Baldwin said. “We are facing COVID. But we are also dealing with people whose health is affected because they cannot train, they don’t feel comfortable training. ”

At the city council meeting, Baldwin said she spoke to business owners who fear they won’t get there until next year. But the city is waiting to see if the number of COVID-19 begins to rise two weeks after Thanksgiving, she said.

Raleigh is one of six municipalities in Wake County with a mask mandate. Masks are required in Garner, Knightdale, Morrisville, Rolesville, and Zebulon, as well as unincorporated parts of the county.

Wake County Commissioners Chairman Sig Hutchinson said on Thursday county staff were discussing the mandate but did not expect an update. Hutchinson was named chairman of the board this week after Matt Calabria’s tenure ended. It is up to the president of the commissioners and mayors to impose mask mandates in their jurisdictions.

Wake County Town Immunization Data
The percentage of people fully vaccinated in each city in Wake County as of December 9, 2021, data. Wake County

Wake County spokesperson Stacy Beard said the county was still in the red zone in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s data tracker.

“The warrant can be safely lifted when the COVID-19 trend positivity rate is less than 5% and the seven-day average is less than 50 cases per 100,000 people, marking moderate community transmission according to the CDC” , she said.

Wake County has a new dashboard which shows the vaccination and positivity rates for each municipality in the county.

None of the municipalities in Wake County have less than 50 cases per 100,000 population, although Morrisville comes closest with 81 cases. Wendell and Wake Forest have the highest case rate per 100,000 population: 330.7 and 337.3 respectively.

The percentage of fully vaccinated residents across all age groups ranges from 74% of Apex residents to 41% of Zebulon residents.

Only four municipalities are below the 5% positivity rate the state has said it needs to help contain the virus: Cary, Fuquay-Varina, Knightdale and Morrisville.

This story was originally published 10 December 2021 4:40 pm.

Anna Johnson covers Raleigh and Wake County for the News & Observer. She has previously covered city government, crime, and business for newspapers across North Carolina and has received numerous North Carolina Press Association awards, including first place for investigative reporting. She is a 2012 alumnus of Elon University.
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