May 14, 2021 - News

North Carolina lifts indoor mask mandate and social distancing requirements

mask illo

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

This story was last updated at 2:45pm on May 14 to include details about businesses’ restrictions.

Gov. Cooper lifted North Carolina’s mask mandate Friday afternoon, and ended capacity and social distancing orders, too.

Masks are still recommended for the un-vaccinated, in accordance with CDC guidance this week, and they’re required for everyone in places such as schools, health care settings, prisons, public transportation, nursing homes, homeless shelters and daycares.

Cooper and state officials had said they’d lift most pandemic requirements like mask-wearing once two-thirds of North Carolina adults were vaccinated, but the change in CDC guidance seems to have bumped that up.

  • Masks are “strongly recommended” for everyone at large crowded indoor events like sporting events and live performances, state officials said.

Why it matters: The governor’s latest guidance comes as coronavirus vaccinations have become widely available to all North Carolina residents, as well as to adolescents 12-15, as of this week. State officials called this a “big step forward,” but the state has a ways to go in terms of vaccinations.

  • Cooper called it a “great day” for the state but later said, “no, we are not at the end of this pandemic.”

By the numbers: More than half of our adults are at least partially vaccinated here in North Carolina, and about 46% are fully vaccinated, Cooper said.

Of note: Businesses such as restaurants, event venues and bars can still enact their own mask requirements. City and local governments can still require masks too, though most have been following state guidance on restrictions, Cooper noted.

  • Charlotte Motor Speedway will operate full capacity for May races, including the Coca-Cola 600, the Observer reported.
An employee at Common Market in South End removes a sign from the door minutes after Cooper’s announcement today. It reads: “No entry without a face mask.” Photo: Emma Way/Axios

“Now is the time to get vaccinated if you haven’t. It’s easy and it’s everywhere,” Cooper said during a press briefing. “Please be responsible and wear a mask until you get vaccinated.”

My thought bubble: This is indeed a turning point for North Carolinians who are fully vaccinated, as life is starting to return to normal. It shouldn’t be a green light for unvaccinated people to also stop wearing masks — but there’s really no way to prevent that. The state is really hoping this provides further incentive to get vaccinated.

“Even though we have had mandates in place, a lot of what we’ve done has relied on the personal responsibility of people and of business. This increases that personal responsibility,” Cooper said.

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