'It does not need to be this complicated’; N.C. lieutenant governor pushes for schools to reopen without mask mandate

'It does not need to be this complicated’; N.C. lieutenant governor pushes for schools to reopen without mask mandate
In this June 29, 2020 file photo North Carolina Lt. Gov. Dan Forest speaks to members of the media during a news conference in Raleigh, N.C. North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper, D-N.C., vetoed a string of bills on Thursday, July 2, 2020 passed in the Republican-controlled legislature to reopen businesses and help reignite parts of the economy most hurt by the coronavirus. Forest, who is running against Cooper in the November gubernatorial election, sued the governor earlier this week for unilaterally closing businesses and mandating face masks. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome) (Source: Gerry Broome)

RALEIGH, N.C. (WBTV/AP) - Republican gubernatorial candidate Dan Forest continues to call for all North Carolina K-12 public schools to reopen without requiring students or teachers to wear masks.

At a Wednesday morning news conference, the lieutenant governor said he would not mandate masks if elected governor, and that he wants the state to move quickly to Plan A so everyone can have 100% in-person learning.

On Thursday, Gov. Roy Cooper announced that beginning on October 5, North Carolina elementary schools will be able to open under “Plan A,” which allows all students and staff to return to school.

Grades 6-12 will still be required to operate under the “Plan B” approach, which lets students participate in a mix of in-classroom and remote learning. Schools are also still allowed the option of completely virtual learning, as laid out in N.C.'s “Plan C.”

For Lt. Governor Forest, this announcement was not good enough.

"Yesterday, Gov. Cooper said it was dangerous to talk about reopening schools. Today, he said it was OK - at least for some schools. What changed? It does not need to be this complicated. Private schools in North Carolina have already figured out how to reopen safely. So have a majority of other states. It’s time to reopen all of our schools to give parents the option of in-person learning. Now,” Forest said.

Face coverings are required for every teacher, staff and student from kindergarten through high school. The governor says studies have shown overwhelmingly that face coverings reduce disease transmission.

Federal health officials have encouraged mask wearing as an effective way to contain the spread of COVID-19.

Copyright 2020 WBTV. All rights reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this story.