RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Gov. Roy Cooper is encouraging schools and local governments to end their mask mandates.

Cooper listed several reasons behind his decision to call for an end to mandates including vaccines, testing, and the abundance of PPE.

“In the early months when there was almost no PPE or testing and precious little vaccine or effective treatment, we put protections in place like mandatory masking and gathering limits that no doubt saved lives,” Cooper said.

But the governor said people know how to gauge their level of risk and decide how best to protect themselves.

“People and businesses should continue to make the best decisions for themselves, their employees and their customers,” Cooper said. “There are still some places, like health care, long-term care and public transportation where a mask will still be required because of settings or federal regulations.”

He said living with the virus is a reality everyone must face.

“Some people, including me, will feel more comfortable wearing a mask when they are in crowds, for example. Parents might still want their children wearing a mask inside school,” he said.

NCDHHS will update its overall guidance to shift away from masks and to vaccinations on March 7, according to Sec. Kody Kinsley.

As of Thursday, 71 percent of the adult population in North Carolina are fully vaccinated and about 51 percent of eligible adults have received their booster shot.

“All along we informed the public about this virus and we systematically reduced mandatory protections relaying more on people and businesses to make educated choices. These efforts have worked,” Cooper said.

The move comes just over a week after the City of Raleigh decided to continue its mask mandate and just days after multiple school districts in central North Carolina voted to make masks optional in schools.

Cooper’s comments come as major COVID-19 metrics have been trending downward since the omicron variant spread across the country.

On Wednesday, the state Department of Health and Human Services said tests are confirming new cases at the lowest rate since Christmas Eve.

As of Thursday morning, all 100 North Carolina counties are still seeing the highest level of transmission, according to the CDC.

Cooper toured the International Civil Rights Center And Museum in Greensboro Thursday afternoon and answered media questions, including detailing a plan on how families could opt-out of having their child(ren) wear masks in schools.

“I think it’s time to take our focus off masks and refocus on improving our schools and making them better,” Cooper said.

WGHP contributed to this article.