Cooper lifts outdoor mask mandate, following updated CDC guidelines

Governor Roy Cooper announced a new executive order Wednesday, lifting the outdoor mask mandate. This comes one day after the CDC released amended guidelines, suggesting vaccinated people can go maskless outdoors and when not in large groups.

Cooper reiterated from last week that if at least two-thirds of adult North Carolinians get at least one shot to protect themselves against Covid-19, the state will lift its indoor mask mandate.

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As of Wednesday, more than 39% of adults in N.C. are fully vaccinated and 48% have obtained at least one dose. The state has set June 1 as its benchmark to “bring summer back.”

This week vaccinations took a drop statewide. N. C. Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen said they have noticed a “slowdown” and are working to reignite interest, especially among residents who haven’t yet sought out a first dose.

Of people who have had a first dose administered, 90% or more return for their second dose, Cohen said. Reaching a two-thirds partially vaccinated benchmark may not mean achieving herd immunity, Cohen said, but it’s enough to live with comfortably and put the pandemic behind.

Cases and hospitalizations among older residents have dipped in recent weeks because of access to vaccinations, Cohen explained. About 73% of all N.C. residents 65 and older are fully vaccinated, state data shows.

“While our numbers are mostly stable, we have more work to do to beat back this pandemic,” Cooper said at a Wednesday press conference.

Effective Apr. 30, the new executive order lifts the outdoor mask mandate and doubles current mass gathering limits to 100 people indoors and 200 outdoors. A standing executive order caps restaurant capacity at 75%.

Cooper said the state anticipates lifting capacity, mass gathering, and social distancing limits by June. Outdoor mask-wearing is still recommended among unvaccinated individuals.

N.C. has had more than 965,500 confirmed cases and 12,619 deaths to date.

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