Durham City and County announced a new state of emergency over the weekend due to the rapidly spreading COVID-19 Delta variant and will require residents to wear face masks indoors again, even if they are fully vaccinated. 

At a news conference this morning, Durham Mayor Steve Schewel said he felt he had to reinstate the mask mandate, and will re-evaluate its necessity each week. While he acknowledged that there have been a small number of breakthrough cases, Schewel called the pandemic that we are experiencing now “a pandemic of the unvaccinated.”

“If you are unvaccinated, the chances are good that the virus will find you,” Schewel said. 

The new mandate comes as intensive care units in Triangle hospitals are reaching capacity, with waiting rooms overflowing with patients. And while Wake County has required that people wear masks inside county buildings, it hasn’t taken the further step of requiring an indoor mask mandate across the board, though the county has seen more than 4,000 new cases of COVID-19 over the past two weeks and has one of the highest case rates in the state. 

Dara Demi, the communications director for Wake County, said she is currently not aware of any plans to reinstate a mask mandate in Wake County.

COVID-19 metrics from the last 14 days indicate that Durham reported 264 cases per 100,000 residents and 241 deaths. Wake County reported 459 cases per 100,000 residents and 752 deaths. Orange County, where spread is moderate compared to Durham and Wake, reported 230 cases per 100,000 residents and 101 deaths. Like Wake, it requires mask wearing in county buildings. 

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Follow Editor-in-Chief Jane Porter on Twitter or send an email to jporter@indyweek.com.