By Mark Jurkowitz | Outer Banks Voice on May 14, 2021
Declaring that “Today, I have great news to share with the people of North Carolina,” Governor Roy Cooper lifted the indoor mask mandate for most situations and cancelled mass gathering and social distancing requirements effective immediately.
To mark the occasion, neither Cooper nor North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) Secretary Mandy Cohen wore their trademark face coverings at the May 14 press briefing.
“In most settings, indoor and outdoor, the state of North Carolina will no longer require you to wear a mask or socially distance,” Cooper declared. Back in late April, the governor announced that outdoor masks would no longer be mandated in the state.
Today’s decision comes one day after the CDC’s announcement that fully vaccinated individuals no longer needed to wear mask or socially distance in most indoor settings.
Cohen said that the few venues in which mask wearing will still be required include public transportation, health care settings, childcare facilities, schools, camps and correctional institutions. Mask wearing will still be recommended for everyone in indoor settings with large crowds. Even as the mask mandate is eliminated, Cooper said the state’s “strong recommendation [is] for unvaccinated people to continue to wear masks…Please be responsible. Wear a mask until you get vaccinated.”
During her remarks, Cohen indicated that an individual “business may choose to require that their customers wear masks.” And in response to a reporter’s question, Cooper said that municipal governments can, should they choose, also continue to require indoor mask wearing.
A good deal of the May 14 press briefing was also focused on the goal of getting more North Carolina residents vaccinated. As of May 14, the NCDHHS is reporting that 51.2% of the state’s adult population has received at least one vaccine dose and that 45.9% is fully vaccinated.
Prior to today, the governor had stated that once two-thirds of North Carolina residents age 18 and older had received at least one shot of COVID vaccine, the state could lift the indoor mask-wearing requirement. At the May 14 briefing, Cooper made clear that was still the goal, adding that “We need to reach all of [those who are not vaccinated] to turn the corner on this pandemic once and for all.”
But noting that he was now lifting the mask requirement with only about half of the state’s adults having received at least one dose, one reporter asked Cooper what had changed in the state’s thinking. “The CDC guidance is what’s changed,” Cooper acknowledged.
Update: In the wake of Governor Roy Cooper lifting indoor mask mandates under most settings, Vidant Health issued this statement noting that its facilities will continue to operate under guidelines that include mask-wearing mandates. At the May 14 press briefing, North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen said that health care settings were one of the venues that would maintain the mask mandate.
“Throughout the pandemic, Vidant Health has kept the safety and well-being of team members, patients and their loved ones at the forefront of all decisions. Vidant continues to follow state and federal guidance on COVID-19 safety measures. Per Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services guidance, Vidant will continue to operate under the existing COVID-19 guidelines, including mandatory masking for team members and visitors, regardless of vaccination status. We thank the community for remaining diligent and encourage those who have not yet received their vaccine to make an appointment by visiting VidantHealth.com/Vaccinate or by calling 252-847-8000.”