Outer Banks leaders issue mask mandate for town, county buildings

The CDC's transmission map shows high level of COVID spread in Dare County on Aug. 12, 2021.

Effective immediately, face masks are now required in all Dare County buildings, as well as all town buildings in Duck, Southern Shores, Kitty Hawk, Manteo and all National Park Service facilities. A mask mandate for Kill Devil Hills becomes effective Monday, Aug. 16.

New data puts Dare County in the same category as New York City, Miami and Los Angeles for having a high percentage of residents vaccinated and being a hot spot for COVID-19 as the Delta variant continues to spread.

Outer Banks businesses are also starting to see impacts to their operations from the increase in coronavirus cases among their staff.

A Washington Post analysis finds that despite having the best COVID-19 vaccination rate of any rural county in the south, and second best in North Carolina, Dare County is among nearly 50 counties in the United States that have more than 54 percent of residents vaccinated that are also considered coronavirus hot spots by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The only other North Carolina locale on the same list published Thursday by The Post is Wake County, where Raleigh is located.

The Island Free Press reports at least a half-dozen businesses on Hatteras Island, and others on the northern beaches, have closed temporarily as a precaution for cleaning and staff to be tested or quarantine.

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services said 2,409 people were being treated for COVID-19 in hospitals and there were 5,900 new cases statewide on Thursday.

Starting Monday, Kill Devil Hills town offices will require face coverings to be worn inside and face-to-face business will be conducted by appointment only.

Around 250 students have been registered for Dare County Schools virtual-only option to start the year. The virtual option was offered after the Dare Board of Education opted not to institute a mask mandate. A group of parents have launched an online petition calling for a classroom for each grade where masks are required.

County and town leaders met Wednesday to discuss the high level of transmission in the county, and “decided that consistent policies were needed across all jurisdictions,” the Dare Joint Operations Center said in a news release.

While county-specific data is not available regarding the Delta variant, initial findings indicate that 95% of regional cases that have been sampled contain the Delta variant, the release said.

“It is estimated that for every person infected with the Delta variant, it may spread to six other individuals. There is concern that the number of positive cases in our community will continue to increase,” the release said.

County leaders are also strongly encouraging everyone to get vaccinated and return to practicing the 3Ws (Wear a Mask, Wait Six Feet Apart and Wash Your Hands Often). The 3Ws are proven methods to protect all of us and prevent the spread of this deadly virus, the release said.

Detailed information regarding COVID-19 in Dare County, including how to get vaccinated, can be found at www.DareNC.com/COVID19. If you have specific needs or questions, you may call the Dare County COVID-19 call center at 252-475-5008 from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.