What’s new on the plateau

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Patrick Taylor Highlands Mayor

I called a special meeting of the town board last Monday afternoon to discuss the governor’s new orders concerning wearing masks in state facilities.  Governor Cooper had encouraged local governments to consider doing the same.

Prior to a vote, the board heard a presentation from Dr. William Hathaway, the CEO of Mission Healthcare. Dr. Hathaway updated the board on his assessment of the Delta variant, and what were the best practices to follow.  In his opinion, the wearing of a mask is the first line of defense against Covid.

He also pointed out that vaccinated people can be infected with the Delta variant, but many  vaccinated people are asymptomatic or have mild symptoms. About 97% of the vaccinated people who contract COVID do not require hospitalization.  Dr. Hathaway emphasized that both vaccinated and unvaccinated people can spread the virus.

After a Q & A period and further discussion, the board voted to require the wearing of masks within town facilities.  The requirement includes town hall, the police department, the Highlands Conference Center, the Highlands ABC Store, the Fire Department, the Highlands Civic Center and other offices.  

The board also encouraged all town employees to get a vaccination.  Our town manager and personnel director will meet with Tom Neal, the coordinator of the vaccination clinic, to establish a  time during working hours for employees to voluntarily get a vaccination.  If private businesses have workers who would like a vaccination, they can call Josh Ward at town hall.  While we want as many town workers as possible to be vaccinated, with the operationalization of a clinic, any local person would be welcomed. 

As Dr. Hathaway emphasized, we need to vaccinate and mask as many people as possible to stop the spread of this highly transmissible Delta variant. I thank Dr. Hathaway for his willingness to drive to Highlands and share his professional expertise.

The board’s action concerning masks in town buildings aligns with what Governor Cooper and state health director Dr. Mandy Cohen have recommended.  The governor’s new orders do not apply to private businesses, but he strongly recommends that these mask protocols be implemented throughout communities.

I was gratified that the board unanimously voted on the mask policy for town facilities.  It is better at this point to take a proactive position in addressing a resurgence of COVID, rather than reacting in the midst of a large spread and skyrocketing infection rates.  My concern is that as we move toward fall, a COVID resurgence could happen near or greater than levels seen at the first of the year.

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