RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Gov. Roy Cooper has lifted some of North Carolina’s COVID-19 restrictions, including capacity and gathering limits, social distancing requirements and most mandatory mask requirements effective immediately.
“That means in most settings indoors or outdoors the state will no longer require you to wear a mask or be socially distant,” Cooper said.
Masks will still be required on public transportation, at child care facilities, prisons, schools and certain public health settings – even for those who are fully vaccinated.
“I have a message for people who have not been vaccinated, and especially those who will choose not to wear a mask. Get vaccinated now. If you don’t listen to me, ask your doctor and do what your doctor tells you,” Cooper said.
Dr. Mandy Cohen said everyone should wear a mask – regardless of vaccination status – at sporting events and live performances.
As of Friday, North Carolina has administered more than 7.7 million doses of vaccine.
At least 51 percent percent of adults are at least partially vaccinated, and 46 percent of adults have been fully vaccinated.
The changes announced Friday stem from Executive Order 215.
On Thursday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has eased mask-wearing guidance for fully vaccinated people, allowing them to stop wearing masks outdoors in crowds and in most indoor settings.
The guidance still calls for wearing masks in crowded indoor settings like buses, planes, hospitals, prisons and homeless shelters, but it will help clear the way for reopening workplaces, schools and other venues — even removing the need for social distancing for those who are fully vaccinated.
Cooper maintained that the state’s mask mandate was in place on Thursday following the CDC’s new guidance before announcing the new changes on Friday.
Many retail businesses are keeping mask requirements in place across the country – such as Harris Teeter, Target, Starbucks, and Home Depot.
Dr. Pia MacDonald, an epidemiologist at RTI International, said the CDC’s announcement Thursday surprised her.
“I think it really complicates things,” she said. “It feels very early to have this come out in terms of knowing that in North Carolina, the majority of North Carolinians are not yet vaccinated.”
She said it’s important for people to understand how the virus is spreading in their community and to recognize that vaccination rates vary significantly in different parts of the state.
“Every state is going to react differently based on politics, based on their vaccination uptake, based on their current status in the outbreak,” she said. “Everyone’s going to have to get very aware of their local numbers to make the kind of informed decision.”
She said there needs to be a major emphasis on understanding the varied reasons people are still choosing not to get the vaccine and focus efforts on reaching those people.
“We know it’s a sandy mountain uphill. We know we need to keep climbing it, and we know we just need to be using different strategies, new strategies, innovative strategies to reach those who are hesitant for a variety of reasons,” she said.