Most North Carolina residents — both vaccinated and unvaccinated — will no longer be required to wear masks in public.
Governor Roy Cooper announced a new executive order Friday afternoon, dropping the state’s mask requirement for all North Carolinians, with some exceptions. Effective as of 1:30 p.m., the order lifts gathering limits, social distancing requirements in all settings, and indoor mask requirements for most settings.
The indoor mask requirement still applies to public transportation, childcare centers, schools, prisons, and other public health settings.
“We can take this step today because the science shows our focus on getting people vaccinated is working,” Cooper said. “But to keep moving forward – and to make sure that we keep saving lives – more people need to get vaccinated.”
The announcement follows the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidance issued Thursday that fully vaccinated individuals could resume normal activities, without a mask or social distancing. This week, the CDC approved the Pfizer vaccine for adolescents between 12 and 15 years old.
As of Friday, 51% of adults in the state are at least partially vaccinated; 46% are fully vaccinated, according to North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services data. Cooper had previously set a goal of dropping gathering and mask requirements by June 1 if two-thirds of the state’s adults were at least partially vaccinated.
Cooper said the decision to allow unvaccinated individuals to go without masks was a practical one. The state has no way of proving who has or hasn’t gotten a vaccine, he explained. Most orders the state has put forth have relied upon the personal responsibility of individuals and businesses.
“Today, this order just increases that personal responsibility,” Cooper said. “Yes, you are likely to see a number of people who are unvaccinated, stop wearing masks.”
NCDHHS recommends unvaccinated individuals continue to wear masks in public. NCDHHS Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen encouraged people who haven’t yet been vaccinated to take advantage of many free opportunities to do so.
“Vaccines continue to be incredibly effective at protecting individuals from this terrible virus. And as more and more people get vaccinated, the results show in our stable metrics with lower cases, lower hospitalizations, and lower deaths,” she said.
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