The Northeast Texas Public Health District is strongly recommending that area schools and businesses implement mask guidelines because of the recent substantial increase in COVID-19 cases.

NET Health’s board of directors on Thursday night issued a resolution that notes that despite a rise in COVID-19 vaccinations, the percentage of East Texans who are 12 and older and fully vaccinated is generally 40% or less, with some counties only around 33%.

NET Health’s resolution recommends all eligible people get vaccinated for COVID-19 as soon as possible.

The health district also asks that school officials implement face coverings for all people on campuses and at school-related activities, as long as the area is under a moderate or substantial spread of COVID-19.

All seven counties — Gregg, Smith, Henderson, Rains, Van Zandt, Anderson and Wood — covered by NET Health have “substantial” levels of community COVID-19 spread, which means large-scale, uncontrollable spread of the virus.

During the past seven days, an average of 117 residents each day in Gregg County have tested positive for COVID-19.

NET Health’s latest update Thursday reported 669 new total cases of COVID-19 in Gregg County residents since Monday

The health district’s board also suggests local businesses strongly encourage masking for customers 2 and older and for employees, except while eating or drinking, if the area is under moderate to substantial spread.

The NET Health board also strongly encourages that people stay home when they are sick, practice social distancing as much as possible and quarantine and get tested after having known close-contact exposure to a person diagnosed with COVID-19.

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