Mask mandate, mass gathering limits lifted, per Gov. Roy Cooper

Emily Broyles, Reporter

North Carolinians can expect a mask-free summer earlier than expected, effective immediately. 

Gov. Roy Cooper announced he is lifting the state’s mask mandate, mandatory mass gathering and capacity limits and social distancing requirements in a press conference May 14, ahead of his June 1 deadline to lift COVID-19 restrictions for the summer. People will no longer be required to wear a mask in most indoor and outdoor areas.

“Throughout the pandemic, I’ve said we would listen to health experts and follow the science as we made decisions. We would listen to the CDC. Our focus would be on saving lives. We would use a dimmer-switch approach to easing restrictions. We’re continuing to do all these things,” Cooper said.

Masks will still be required in schools, child care, public transportation and in some public health settings. Face coverings are also strongly recommended in large crowded indoor areas like sporting events and concerts.

The The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services recommends businesses to:

  • Post signs reminding guests to social distance and wear masks if they are not fully vaccinated.
  • Remind employees to monitor for COVID-19 symptoms.
  •  Have a plan to isolate and remove sick workers effectively.
  • Clean high-touch surfaces once a day. 

Businesses can choose to make customers wear masks, according to a press release from Cooper’s office. 

The NCDHHS also recommends unvaccinated individuals and children too young to receive the vaccine to continue to wear masks.

“Now is the time to get vaccinated if you haven’t. While today’s news means that we are even closer to putting this behind us, it doesn’t mean we’re there yet,” Cooper said. “The pandemic is still here, especially for those who are not vaccinated.”

Almost 46% of adults are fully vaccinated. More than half of adults in the state are at least partially vaccinated. The governor encourages people to “be responsible” and wear a mask if they have not received a vaccine.

Cooper said North Carolinians can continue wearing masks if they feel safer and if recommended by their doctor. 

“We need to reach all (people) to turn the corner on this pandemic once and for all,” Cooper said of those who are unvaccinated. “North Carolinians have shown that we have resolve and the compassion to do what’s needed even when times get hard. If we keep doing that, we’ll get through this.”

As of May 14, North Carolina has seen 989,338 COVID-19 cases, with 1,501 new cases reported since yesterday. Case count and hospitalization numbers have been stable or declining, with 926 people in the hospital and 12,862 fatalities.