Mayor on Duty

COVID policies can change fast. Two weeks ago, in accordance with Governor Cooper’s new executive emergency order, the town changed the signs downtown to read, “Masks are suggested in crowded areas.” 

On Thursday of last week, I tuned into the CDC press conference where the Director Walensky and Dr. Fauci stated that there was no need for vaccinated people to continue wearing masks both outdoors and indoors. 

That announcement was a sudden change, but welcomed news for the fully vaccinated population. The reports on the efficacy of the three vaccines in use have been so strong that the experts decided this major shift in policy was warranted.

With the CDC announcement I thought the governor and state officials would need to make adjustments in their policies. I was surprised, but gratified, the governor called a press conference the next day, Friday, to announce major changes concerning wearing masks and social distancing. 

The governor made a sweeping decision that there would be no more outdoor or indoor masks requirements, except for a few exceptions. Like the CDC recommendations, the state still has masks requirements for medical facilities, schools, and public transportation. The governor also lifted indoor and outdoor capacity requirements. 

Events were moving so fast that I initially thought the governor had meant people who were fully vaccinated didn’t have to wear masks. My initial impression turned out not to be the case, unvaccinated people also do not have to wear masks. 

The governor did encourage unvaccinated people to continue wearing masks, and everyone to wear masks in very crowded situations. Our signs downtown pretty much capture that recommendation concerning crowded areas.

Upon further reflection, I understand why the governor vacated the mask requirement for everyone. An effort to ascertain who is vaccinated and those who are not would have been problematic to say the least. The governor and his staff are hoping that those not vaccinated will continue to wear masks and socially distance.

Barring some unforeseen situation, the town will continue to follow the governor’s policies in addressing COVID. He did state at his press conference that towns and counties could impose stricter protocols in critical situations. I do not see that as the case here in Highlands. Business also have the option of requiring masks in their establishments.

After all is said and done, I stand with the governor in urging everyone to get vaccinated. If a person has concerns, they should talk with their physician. 

The Highlands and Cashiers communities had a wonderful volunteer effort in operating the vaccination clinics. Now we have pharmacies and public health sites willing and more than able to administer vaccinations. 

Those willing to take the vaccine are really protecting themselves, their families, and their fellow citizens. Taking the vaccine is also a way of honoring and affirming our many friends and neighbors who devoted countless hours in operating the vaccination clinics. These wonderful volunteers believe in the science and the benefit of vaccinations for our community and our country.

Here is my personal, and yes, official position.  I hope those vaccinated will enjoy a return to normal activities free of the burden of wearing masks and socially distancing. For those not vaccinated, I urge them to do so. If not, unvaccinated people should continue wearing masks and socially distancing. 

For those refusing vaccination and wearing a mask, that is a personal decision that may impact others. I for one chose to be vaccinated and be a part of the solution, not contribute to the problems of this pandemic. It’s called responsible behavior.

  • Town of Highlands Mayor Pat Taylor

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