RALEIGH — North Carolina House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Kings Mountain) has sent a letter asking Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper to end masking and related quarantine policies for the state’s K-12 students.
“Throughout the pandemic, it has been our young children who have paid the heaviest price for the Governor’s endless state of emergency and ongoing mandates and restrictions,” Moore said in a statement.
“It is time to end the policies that have disrupted classrooms and hindered student achievement. The science does not support these onerous restrictions that continue to harm our children,” Moore said. “I urge Governor Cooper to repeal the guidelines that force healthy kids to stay home and effectively mandate masks in schools.”
In the letter, Moore cites the plummeting rates of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in North Carolina and that children in the state continue to “pay the heaviest price” of COVID policies despite having the least risk from the disease.
Moore calls the masking and other policies applied to young children “as onerous as they are ineffective and unnecessary.” He also went on to say that the guidelines for schools put out by the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services have “all but compelled school districts to keep their mask mandates in place.”
In his statement, Moore says some 36 school districts have already ended forced masking policies while others are still deciding. The state’s largest districts, Wake and Charlotte-Mecklenburg, both voted for another month of masking at their most recent meetings in February.
In January, Interim Secretary of the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) Kody Kinsley admitted that the department’s K-12 guidelines, known as the StrongSchools NC Toolkit, is a not legally enforceable document.
“The Toolkit itself is not a legally enforceable document, but rather strong recommendations for schools on how to reduce the spread of COVID-19,” wrote Kinsley in response to an inquiry from state Sen. Deanna Ballard (R-Watauga) about Test to Stay protocols.
Ballard’s inquiry letter had been sent to former NCDHHS Sec. Mandy Cohen in December of 2021, the same month as a legislative subcommittee hearing at which Cohen had repeatedly dodged the question of whether or not the toolkit legally binding document, a “recommendation, a law, or a suggestion.”
Union County Public Schools has already dropped contact tracing and quarantine policies. That district has maintained mask optional policies throughout in-person instruction.
Prior to voting on dropping the policies, Union County’s school board and county commissioners passed a resolution calling on the state to drop contact tracing and quarantine rules for K-12. Additionally, Randolph County Public Schools has passed a resolution with the same intent as Union County’s.
In the last week, states like Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon, and Virginia have all moved to make masks in schools optional. In Virginia, bipartisan legislation was passed this week that would prohibit schools from implementing a mask mandate.
The last time Cooper held a COVID-19 press conference was on Jan. 4 of this year. His statewide state of the emergency executive order has still not been rescinded and is now 702 days old as of Moore’s request. The order turns two years old next month on March 10.
The length of the order has continually drawn criticism, resulting in measures added to the most recently enacted state budget. The measures to check the length of executive orders now require Council of State and legislative approval if the order goes beyond certain timeframes.