BEAUFORT — Noting problems with compliance and a decline in the positivity rate recently, Beaufort commissioners Monday repealed the townwide mask mandate for indoor spaces – a COVID safety measure in place since the end of August.
“I think masking is very effective, and those who chose to use a mask will, but those who don’t, they’re not doing it anyway, and I think it’s causing some issues with businesses and things,” Commissioner Marianna Hollinshed said during the board’s regular meeting, held via Zoom.
The commission adopted the mandate for all indoor spaces in town Aug. 23 amid record-high coronavirus deaths and hospitalizations in Carteret County, pushed by the delta variant of the coronavirus. Beaufort was the first and only county municipality to take the step and require mask-wearing in public during the most recent surge in cases.
Monday, county health officials reported a percent positivity – the number of positive COVID-19 tests over the total number taken – of 8.8%, higher than the statewide rate of 7.5%. The county reported 179 active cases with 83 confirmed deaths. Hospitalizations are also up from the end of last week. The latest COVID death in the county was reported Friday and was the third in this month.
Beaufort Commissioner Ann Carter noted Monday the town was “not getting a great deal of cooperation” with the mandate, and several other commissioners said it was time to leave the choice to individuals.
“Personal responsibility is going to have to take place at this point in time,” Commissioner Sharon Harker said.
As such, the board unanimously agreed to rescind the mask mandate, effective immediately.
As part of the discussion of coronavirus safety measures, which the board undertakes twice per month, they also opted to set November as a goal to return to in-person meetings of town boards. That move may be hampered somewhat, however, while the town awaits installation of equipment in the train depot to allow hybrid meetings with remote participation.
The board also left an employee policy in place that extends additional sick leave for only those employees who are vaccinated.
Editor's note: This article was updated at 10:56 p.m. Monday, Oct. 11, 2021, to fix broken links.
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