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Gov. Cooper lifts all N.C.’s mandatory capacity, gathering & social distancing requirements

Updated: May. 14, 2021 at 7:04 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Gov. Roy Cooper Friday lifted all mandatory capacity and gathering limits, social distancing requirements, and most mandatory mask requirements.

The move, effective immediately, means that in most settings indoors or outdoors the state will no longer require you to wear a mask or be socially distant. Cooper said there will continue to be a mandatory indoor mask requirement on public transportation, in child care, in schools, in prisons and in certain public health settings.

Cooper and members of the Coronavirus Task Force made the announcement at 1:30 p.m.

“There will also be strong recommendations from NCDHHS for unvaccinated people to wear masks,” Cooper said. “Certainly anyone who feels better protected or has received advice from a doctor should continue to wear a mask.”

Just two weeks ago, Governor Cooper said he would not lift the indoor mask mandate until two-thirds of North Carolina’s population receives at least one dose of the vaccine. Friday, only 40.6 percent of North Carolina’s population is partially vaccinated. Cooper said it was the CDC’s new guidance that prompted him to change his plans.

“Throughout the pandemic, I’ve said we would listen to health experts and follow the science as we made decisions,” Cooper said. “We would listen to the CDC. Our focus would be on saving lives. We would use a dimmer-switch approach to easing restrictions. We’re continuing to do all these things.”

He continued, “This nation’s scientists - including many in N.C. - showed what is possible if we work toward a common goal. That common goal now, more than ever, is overcoming this pandemic through safe & effective vaccines.”

Last month, Cooper announced he planned to lift mandatory social distancing, capacity and mass gathering restrictions by June 1.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Thursday that masks would still be recommended for settings like public transportation, but most restrictions would be lifted for those who are fully vaccinated. The guidance allows Americans to stop wearing masks outdoors in crowds and in most indoor settings.

“Anyone who is fully vaccinated can participate in indoor and outdoor activities – large or small — without wearing a mask or physically distancing,” said CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said.

But Cooper held off on adopting the new guidance until making the announcement on Friday.

Dory MacMillan, press secretary for Gov. Cooper, released a statement pointing out that state health officials needed to review the CDC’s recommendations before lifting the state’s indoor mask mandate.

Many Charlotteans have mixed feelings about the easing of restrictions.

“Honestly, I think it’s a bit early. I don’t think the vaccination count has quite hit a threshold to reach herd immunity,” Sebastion Nicewicz said.

“I’m a little bit concerned about that, that people will no longer feel they have a responsibility to get vaccinated or wear a mask anymore,” Natalie Bates said.

“I think it’s very interesting because the virus is still there,” Selena O’Neal said. “So I just feel like you can catch it still, so if you’re lifting it you can still catch it.”

“It’s like 50/50 because it’s a good thing but you don’t know who’s vaccinated and whose not vaccinated,” Brittain Robinson said.

“I’m kind of neutral on the idea but I think it’s good progress we’re making. It’s looking better,” Grace Joye said.

The new executive order allows businesses and local governments to still enforce a mask mandate despite the state order.

Residents age 12 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.

Those aged 12-17 may only receive the Pfizer vaccine. Use My Spot to find locations that carry the Pfizer vaccine.

During Friday’s announcement, Cooper stressed that the fight against the virus is not over and that people still need to get vaccinated.

North Carolina had already eased several COVID-19 restrictions before Friday’s announcement, allowing for maximum capacity limits at some places under the current executive order.

On April 28, Executive Order No. 209 removed the outdoor Face Covering requirement, loosened restrictions on gatherings, and extended the capacity limitations and social distancing measures of Executive Order No. 204.

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.

“We will continue to distribute vaccines in a way that’s fast and fair,” Cooper said.

Many clinics in our area recently opened same-day walk-in COVID-19 vaccinations.

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