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North Carolina nixes outdoor mask mandate

North Carolina nixes outdoor mask mandate
© Stefani Reynolds

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper (D) plans to drop the state’s outdoor mask mandate days after federal health experts released new guidance on mask-wearing for those vaccinated against the coronavirus.

Cooper said in a news conference on Wednesday he’s signing an executive order nixing the outdoor mask mandate on Friday and increasing the limits on mass gatherings to 200 people outdoors and 100 people indoors.

He said that masks will still be required indoors and in public places. Safety requirements for public places — including social distancing and capacity limits — will also remain in place next month.

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The governor hopes to lift the indoor mask mandate and other restrictions when two-thirds of the state’s adult population gets at least partially vaccinated.

Mandy Cohen, director of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, said that 48.7 percent of the population ages 18 and older are at least partially vaccinated, and 39.2 percent are fully vaccinated.

“The critical piece of our success is getting vaccinated,” Cooper said.

“Right now about half of our adults as Dr. Cohen said are partially vaccinated and almost 40 percent are fully vaccinated, that’s great progress,” he continued. “To get to two-thirds, we need everybody to work on this.”

The move comes a day after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued guidance saying it’s safe for fully vaccinated people not to wear masks during small, outdoor gatherings even if there are unvaccinated people in attendance.

The CDC also said that vaccinated people can dine at outdoor restaurants with friends from multiple households without a mask.

People are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after their second dose of either Pfizer or Moderna’s vaccine, or two weeks after the single dose of Johnson & Johnson’s.

After the CDC issued its guidance, New York and California said they were adopting the agency’s guidance, while Massachusetts and Maine completely nixed their outdoor mask mandates.