Gov. Roy Cooper lifts most mask, social distancing requirements for North Carolinians

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

RALEIGH – Gov. Roy Cooper announced on Friday, May 14, that North Carolinians who are fully vaccinated will no longer need to abide by the state’s mask mandate or social distancing requirements.

Speaking from the Emergency Operations Center in Raleigh, Cooper said effective immediately, he was lifting all capacity gathering limits, social distancing, and most mandatory mask requirements.

“We can take this step today because the science shows our focus on getting people vaccinated is working,” said Gov. Cooper. “But to keep moving forward – and to make sure that we keep saving lives – more people need to get vaccinated.”

The announcement today comes roughly 24 hours after new U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) interim public health recommendations that say fully vaccinated people do not need to abide by mask and social distancing requirements.

According to the CDC, fully vaccinated people are at low risk of contracting COVID-19 during most activities, both indoor and outdoor.

However, enforcement of mask, social distancing, and other COVID-19 protections have been the domain of state-level leaders.

Gov. Cooper issued the state’s mask mandate on June 26, 2020, with a state of emergency having been declared over 400 days.

The new order, Executive Order 215, says that child care facilities, children’s day or overnight camps, health care settings including hospitals, outpatient healthcare settings, long-term care and skilled nursing facilities, public transportation, prisons and detention facilities, and homeless shelters still have a mask requirement.

N.C. Dept. of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) secretary Mandy Cohen added that those unvaccinated should continue to wear masks and social distance, and businesses can continue to require masks, using coffee chain Starbucks as one example. Gov. Cooper added that cities and local governments still have the option to require masks as well.

Mask requirements also continue in schools. The order says that the requirements of the Strong Schools NC Toolkit remain in effect, which requires all students in public schools to continue to wear face coverings.

The order also “strongly recommends” that all individuals continue to wear face coverings in large indoor facilities with a seating capacity greater than 5,000 individuals.

After the CDC guidance and executive order, Chief Justice Paul Newby announced he was eliminating an emergency directive requiring face coverings in courthouse facilities and allowing court officials to make those decisions at the local level.

NCDHHS reported on Friday 1,501 new COVID-19 cases, 3.8% positive COVID-19 tests, and 51.2% of adults vaccinated with at least one dose.

Today’s executive order, EO 215, can be read here.