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Governor Roy Cooper calls on local governments and school boards to end mask mandates

On Thursday, Feb. 17 Governor Roy Cooper called on local governments to end their mask mandates.
Office of the Governor
On Thursday, Feb. 17 Governor Roy Cooper called on local governments to end their mask mandates.

Cooper cited the less severe illness caused by the Omicron variant — especially for the vaccinated and boosted — in his decision — but noted the importance of personal choice for people, including himself, who might want to continue masking in some situations.

“Now people know how to gauge their level of risk, and decide how to best protect themselves," Cooper said, noting that because of the vast improvements made in testing, vaccination and treatment, "I encourage schools and local governments to end their local mask mandates.”

Cooper noted that some locations, like health care centers and facilities covered by federal law, would still require masks — and that many would still want to continue to mask by choice, even without a mandate.

“Some people, including me, will feel more comfortable feel comfortable wearing a mask, when they're in crowds for example. Parents might still want their children wearing a mask inside school. Businesses might want their employees, and customers, to wear a mask. At this stage of the pandemic, its right for them to make these choice in most situations," Cooper said, reiterating that vaccines provide the strongest protection against illness, hospitalization, and death from Covid.

Cooper’s announcement follows a bipartisan vote in the state House approving a bill that would give parents the right to opt their children out of school mask mandates.

It also represents a change in tone from statements made earlier this week by Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kody Kinsley, who urged school boards to keep their mask mandates in place – citing case rates that have remained high.

The Governor’s office ended its statewide mask order last spring, and has since relied on local governments to handle mandates – often leading to highly politicized tensions.

Ben Schachtman is a journalist and editor with a focus on local government accountability. He began reporting for Port City Daily in the Wilmington area in 2016 and took over as managing editor there in 2018. He’s a graduate of Rutgers College and later received his MA from NYU and his PhD from SUNY-Stony Brook, both in English Literature. He loves spending time with his wife and playing rock'n'roll very loudly. You can reach him at BSchachtman@whqr.org and find him on Twitter @Ben_Schachtman.