Gov. Roy Cooper eases outdoor mask mandate, mass gatherings limits

Gov. Roy Cooper briefs media at the Emergency Operations Center in Raleigh. Photo via N.C. Dept. of Public Safety

RALEIGH – Gov. Roy Cooper on Wednesday said a new executive order would continue easing some restrictions that have been in place for over a year.

Speaking at the Emergency Operations Center in Raleigh, Cooper said as more North Carolinians get vaccinated and adhere to safety protocols over the course of the next month, he anticipates lifting more restrictions beginning June 1.

“While our numbers are mostly stable, we have more work to do to beat back this pandemic,” said Gov. Cooper. “Let’s work hard in May and get as many people vaccinated as we can before summer gets here.”

Under the new order, which takes effect on Friday, April 30, masks will still be required indoors but are no longer mandated outdoors, although NCDHHS still “strongly recommends” wearing a face covering outdoors in crowded areas. The mask requirement indoors is not affected by today’s order and continues to be in effect.

The mass gathering limits are doubled, with indoor limits now set at 100 people and outdoor limits set at 200 people.

The mass gathering restrictions also include a new provision that allow for larger venues such as auditoriums, amphitheaters, arenas, and live performance venues to admit guests at a higher capacity pending pre-approval from NCDHHS of its health and safety plan.

Today’s further easing comes a day after the N.C. Senate passed an emergency powers modification bill, setting up a conference committee for the two chambers to agree on a package to be sent to Cooper.

Sen. Bill Rabon (R-Brunswick) said a earlier, “North Carolina is one of only 15 states with no time limit on an emergency declaration. No single person should have unchecked authority to wield emergency powers for an indefinite period of time. It’s inconsistent with the basic idea of a representative democracy.”

Read the Executive Order.