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Gov. Cooper (mostly) lifts mask mandate, removes social distancing requirements and gathering limits

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Office of Roy Cooper
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Gov. Roy Cooper and DHHS Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen appeared on Friday; for the first time in roughly a year, they were not wearing masks, even away from lecturn.

This afternoon, Gov. Roy Cooper lifted the majority of Covid-19 restrictions -- and largely ended the state’s mask mandate. The move follows updated guidance from the CDC issued on Thursday.

“I have great news for the people Of North Carolina. Effective immediately we are lifting all mandatory capacity and gathering limits, and social distancing requirements -- and most mandatory mask requirements,” Cooper said. “This is a big step forward in living our lives in the way they were before the pandemic.”

While the CDC guidance to drop these requirements was only for vaccinated people, Gov. Cooper lifted them for all North Carolinians. Cooper did continue to urge unvaccinated people to wear masks.

According to Dr. Mandy Cohen, Secretary of the state’s Department of Health and Human Services, there are some exceptions, that is, places where masks will still be required even for vaccinated individuals.

“Those settings are places such as public transportation, healthcare settings like hospitals, doctors’ offices, and nursing homes, and other high-risk congregate settings like correctional facilities and homeless shelters,” Cohen said. “Masks are also still required in childcare, schools, and camps -- as remember most children are either not yet vaccinated or not yet eligible to get vaccinated.”

Cohen still strongly recommends masks for all at large, crowded events -- but her department will no longer ask vaccinated people to quarantine and get tested after Covid-19 exposure unless they show symptoms.

Gov. Cooper initially tied lifting these requirements to vaccinating 2/3rds of the state. While less than half of the population is fully vaccinated, Cooper says he’s comfortable dropping the requirements based on CDC guidance, but still wants the state to close the gap.

While local governments and businesses retain the ability to set their own restrictions, Cooper says he expects most will stay in line with the newly relaxed state requirements.