Gov. Roy Cooper’s orders requiring face masks in public when social distancing isn’t possible and limits on the number of people in indoor settings need to be enforced in Wilkes County.

Public health and medical professionals have urged people to take these steps and use caution with small gatherings of friends and family to protect themselves and loved ones and help avoid more shutdowns.

These recommendations have been well publicized, but many people in Wilkes haven’t and still don’t heed them. Now, the county is leading a COVID-19 surge in North Carolina. Unfortunately, science-based information about the pandemic has had to compete with misinformation.

There should be consequences for not doing what is required when the stakes are so high, regardless of the information people choose to believe. The consequences should include temporary shutdown of businesses and fines for individuals not complying with what is required.

Since the release of data over a week ago listing Wilkes among five or six counties with the most COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people in the prior 14 days, the pandemic has worsened here.

On Nov. 16, Wilkes ranked sixth among the state’s 100 counties in total new confirmed COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people in the prior two weeks with 576. On Nov. 22, Wilkes was still among the top 10 with 612 confirmed cases in the two weeks prior to that date.

Recent progress on vaccines produced light at the end of the tunnel, but medical experts say the COVID-19 surge will first grow more severe statewide through the winter.

Government leaders in Wilkes need to work together on imposing consequences for non-compliance with the face mask mandate, limits on the number of people in indoor settings and other COVID-19–related requirements.

Consequences for non-compliance with rules already in place should be enacted, not additional restrictions.

There is good reason to believe suffering in Wilkes will be considerably worse this winter if town and county government leaders don’t take strong action now.

More Wilkes County residents will die than otherwise might be the case. There couldn't be a better reason to wear masks in public and observe limits on the number of people in indoor settings.

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