North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper's newest Executive Order (#209) takes effect at 5 PM this Friday (April 30th), relaxing the outdoor mask mandate and easing the mass gathering limit restrictions imposed due to COVID-19. It will remain in effect until June 1st, when Cooper has indicated he will lift all restrictions.
Face coverings are no longer required outdoors anytime. The indoor mass gathering limit is raised to 100 persons and the outdoor mass gathering limit to 200 persons. A face covering is still required in all public indoor settings if there are non-household members present, regardless of the ability to maintain social distancing.
Restaurants, breweries, wineries, distilleries and gyms can stll legally have only 75% of their fire code occupancy, while bars, auditoriums, theaters, etc. can have up to 50% indoors (75% outdoors).
Truthfully, except for loosely enforcing the mask mandate indoors, there already appeared to be little if any compliance with any of Cooper's restrictions. His decision to eliminate all of them on June 1st appears to be as much coming to awareness of reality as much as a decision that the restrictions may no longer be needed as more people are getting vaccinated.
Most of the annual events that got cancelled last year because of the pandemic will return this Summer and Fall. Lincolnton is planning a July 4th parade, and fireworks shows will be held. Lincolnton had fireworks last year, but you couldn't enter the LHS stadium to watch them. No official announcement has yet been made, but that may change this year.
Dallas will have fireworks on the night of the 4th at Cloninger Park. Stanley will have its fireworks on Saturday evening July 3rd. Announcements about other celebrations that were cancelled last year but will return this year are expected next week. While the American Legion World Series will return to Shelby this year, the decision had already been made to do away with the related 7th Inning Stretch festival. “Liberty Mountain: The Revolutionary Drama” that usually happens each summer in Kings Mountain has also been cancelled for 2021.
The North Carolina High School Athletic Association (NCHSAA) decided this week to eliminate any mask requirement for high school athletes involved in outdoor sports.
While the coronavirus continues to claim victims and the pandemic isn't over, the alarm has definitely subsided in our area. Catawba County has now had 300 deaths from COVID-19; Gaston County has had 425. Lincoln County has had 87, but that number hasn't increased since early April. Catawba County reported only seven newly confirmed cases of the virus on Thursday.
In North Carolina, 31.4% of the state's total population has now been fully vaccinated (40% of all adults). A few weeks ago, many were having difficulty scheduling vaccinations, but the demand has declined to the point where getting vaccinated is easy. In addition to health departments, several drug stores are offering vaccinations.
Because so few people were showing up for mass vaccination clinics, Kintegra Health has decided to discontinue its mass clinics. Kintegra patients will still be queried by their doctor if they've been vaccinated and if not, urged to get vaccinated while there. Kintetgra will offer vaccinations with the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine to anyone who wants it at a special event related to Medicaid at the Rotary Pavilion in Gastonia this Saturday (11AM-2PM).
UPDATE: Lincoln County reported 87 active cases on Friday (April 30th), the lowest number since 77 on April 9th. Catawba County had 9 new cases reported Friday. Hospitalizations there were down to just 14. Gaston County had 27 hospitalized, but none on a ventialator. Cleveland County estimated 101 active cases, but only five county residents hospitalized with the virus. NCDHHS says that while there were 2,231 new cases reported Friday and 1,101 people hospitalized statewide, 40.5% of the state's adult population has now been fully vaccinated.
Because we've done our best to keep our readers informed about the coronavirus from the beginning, some have accused us of biased reporting. Truthfully, we haven't enjoyed reporting the bad news of last Summer and Fall and the awful news of December and January. We're happy to at last be able to report some good news related to the virus.
Some called it a hoax; many continue to politicize this publich health crisis. Whether it meets with favor or not, we have a responsibility to report the facts--and we have done our best to do just that. The virus is real--and deadly. People are still dying from it. Wearing a mask isn't a sign of fear; it's a realization that those who really care about stopping this virus can and should do their part.
We've done our best to keep our readers informed. Like the news or not, everyone can read our articles for FREE, and when you sign up for our FREE email service, we'll send you an email every day with links to our latest articles.