CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - North Carolina is no longer requiring masks outdoors and has eased restrictions on mass gatherings. The executive order went into effect at 5 p.m. on April 30.
Masks will still be required indoors, Gov. Roy Cooper said, while limits on mass gatherings have increased to 100 people indoors and 200 outdoors. The governor cited the rising number of fully-vaccinated people across North Carolina for the change.
Cooper said about half of adults in N.C. are partially vaccinated while almost 40 percent are fully vaccinated.
“The critical piece of our success is getting vaccinated,” Cooper said. “We have safe and effective vaccines available for every adult in the state at no cost. They are easy to find at many different locations, and there are convenient appointments and walk-in opportunities.”
Some people in Charlotte said it did not seem to change much, but they feel grateful for any progress.
“A lot of people have been outside without a mask,” Charlotte resident Matt Carter said. “I haven’t had my second vaccine yet, but I’ve had my first and I’ve felt pretty comfortable out in open spaces.”
Cooper made the announcement during a press conference on COVID-19 Wednesday, a day after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention eased its guidelines on the wearing of masks outdoors. The order will end on June 1.
The CDC said Tuesday that fully vaccinated Americans don’t need to wear a mask anymore unless they are in a big crowd of strangers. Those who are unvaccinated can go outside without masks in some situations.
The change in CDC guidance comes as more than half of U.S. adults have received at least one dose of vaccine, and more than a third have been fully vaccinated.
Cooper had previously said he anticipated being able to lift mandatory social distancing, capacity and mass gathering restrictions by June 1.
Last week, Cooper said he hoped the mask mandate will only be required in indoor public places after June 1.
“Although we’re making progress, we haven’t beat COVID-19 yet,” Cooper said, acknowledging that the virus will not have disappeared by June.
The governor plans to issue an executive order next week outlining safety restrictions for the month of May.
“Each shot in an arm is a step closer to putting this pandemic in the rearview mirror,” Cooper said.
Residents age 16 and older continue to get vaccinated across North Carolina and supply continues to increase. NCDHHS secretary Mandy Cohen says the state has enough vaccine for everyone.
Cooper says with an adequate number of vaccines available, it’s time for everybody to “step up.”
Cooper says the next goal is for two-thirds of adults to be vaccinated. At that point, state health leaders believe the mask mandate could be lifted.
“With at least two-thirds of adults vaccinated, our public health experts believe we will have enough protection across our communities to be able to live more safely with this virus and begin to put this pandemic behind us,” Cooper said.
As of Wednesday 48.7% of the adult population is partially vaccinated. That number needs to rise to 66.6% for the indoor mask mandate to end.
“We can bring back summer to North Carolina,” Cohen said. “We are making progress.”
North Carolina has majorly eased several COVID-19 restrictions, allowing for maximum capacity limits at some places under the current executive order.
The latest order began at 5 p.m. on March 26.
The 11 p.m. curfew for on-site alcohol consumption has been lifted.
Mass gathering limits increased to 50 outdoors and 100 outdoors.
The following places were able to increase capacity up to 100-percent:
- Museums and Aquariums
- Retail Businesses
- Salons, personal care and grooming businesses, tattoo parlors
The following places became able to operate at 75-percent capacity indoors and 100-percent outdoors:
- Breweries, Wineries, and Distilleries
- Recreation (e.g., bowling, skating, rock climbing)
- Fitness and Physical Activity Facilities (e.g. gyms, yoga studios, fitness centers)
- Amusement Parks
These other places increased capacity to 50-percent indoors and outdoors:
- Meeting, Reception, and Conference Spaces
- Lounges (including tobacco) and Night Clubs
- Auditoriums, Arenas, and other venues for live performances
- Sports Arenas and Fields (includes professional, collegiate, and amateur)
- Movie Theaters (Movie theaters may operate at 75% capacity outdoors.)
- Gaming Facilities (Gaming facilities may operate at 75% capacity outdoors.)
There is no longer a curfew and there are more opportunities to gather, shop and attend events.
On April 7, all residents in North Carolina age 16 and older became eligible to receive the vaccine.
Clinics across our area are seeing an increased supply of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.
The U.S. is has recommended a “pause” in using the single-dose Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine to investigate reports of potentially dangerous blood clots.
Many clinics in our area recently opened same-day walk-in COVID-19 vaccinations.
Many students in our area are back in the classroom in some capacity, but not all districts support the same plan. Since those under age 16 are not eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, health leaders say protocols will need to include children’s safety.