BREAKING: Gov. Roy Cooper loosens mask mandate

BY D. LARS DOLDER, News + Record Staff
Posted 5/14/21

RALEIGH — Gov. Roy Cooper announced Friday he would be loosening the statewide mask mandate per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s latest recommendation.

All gathering …

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BREAKING: Gov. Roy Cooper loosens mask mandate

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Posted

RALEIGH — Gov. Roy Cooper announced Friday he would be loosening the statewide mask mandate per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s latest recommendation.

All gathering limits and social distancing requirements have been lifted in all settings, and masks are no longer required in most settings.

“This is a big step forward in living like we did before the pandemic,” Cooper said.

Still, the mask mandate will continue in some situations.

“Masks will still be required in child care, schools and camps as most children are either not yet vaccinated or are not yet eligible to be vaccinated,” Dory MacMillan, press secretary for the governor, said in a release. “Everyone, including people who are fully vaccinated will still be required to wear a mask in certain settings such as public transportation, health care settings like hospitals, doctor’s offices and long-term care settings like nursing homes, and certain congregate settings like correctional facilities and homeless shelters.”

In addition, businesses and venues reserve the right to enforce mask wearing and social distancing despite the state’s loosened restrictions. Some, such as Home Depot, have already suggested they will maintain the mask requirement in their buildings for both employees and shoppers, according to Dr. Mandy Cohen, North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services secretary.

Cities and local governments are also at liberty to impose COVID-19 restrictions beyond the statewide guidance, including mask wearing and social distancing. But most counties and municipalities have followed the state’s lead with previous mandate changes.

“I would expect most of them to follow what we are doing,” Cooper said of the most recent adjustment.

Chatham County Public Health Dept. representatives had not discussed their response to the governor’s adjusted mandate immediately following the press conference, CCPHD Communications Specialist Zachary Horner told the News + Record, but will probably follow the state’s direction.

“Chatham has always followed the governor’s order and has not enacted one of its own,” Horner said. “Any decision on that front would be made by the Board of Commissioners.”

While the mandate's removal applies to all North Carolinians, Cooper emphasized that the safest option for unvaccinated residents is still to wear a mask.

“We will continue to have strong public health recommendations for individuals to continue to protect one another until more people are vaccinated,” he said. “People who are not vaccinated should wear a mask and maintain distance in all indoor public settings and in outdoor settings when they can’t maintain six feet of distance.”

As of Thursday, almost 35,000 Chathamites — about 47% of the county’s population — had received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine. Just more than 41% of the county is completely inoculated. The proportion of Chatham County residents to have received the vaccine exceeds North Carolina’s as a whole. Just more than 40% of the state had been vaccinated by Thursday with at least one dose, and about 36% were fully vaccinated.

Also on Thursday, CCPHD announced it would begin offering vaccinations to residents aged 12 and older. Only the Pfizer vaccine is approved by the Food and Drug Administration to anyone younger than 18. Opening the vaccine to a new demographic should help the state more quickly reach its goal of inoculating two-thirds of the population, Cooper said — a critical milestone toward sustainable herd immunity. Until then, he warned, the pandemic could still make a resurgence if unvaccinated North Carolinians disregard health officials’ advice. 

“This is not the end of the pandemic,” Cooper said. “... The work isn’t finished.”

For more information on COVID-19 vaccines and where you can find them, visit yourspotyourshot.nc.gov. CCPHD’s vaccination plans can be found at www.chathamcountync.gov/coronavirusvaccine. To learn more about the CCPHD, visit www.chathamcountync.gov/publichealth or www.facebook.com/chathamhealth.

Reporter D. Lars Dolder can be reached at dldolder@chathamnr.com and on Twitter @dldolder.

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