Governor Cooper lifts mandates capacity limits, physical distancing and mask wearing

Andrew Lemon, Interim News Editor

Gov. Roy Cooper announced on Friday that North Carolina is lifting coronavirus (COVID-19) mandates on capacity limitations, physical distancing and most mandatory mask requirements, citing recent guidance from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) stating that vaccinated people can more or less return to their pre-COVID-19 ways of life.


“Effective immediately, we are lifting all mandatory capacity and gathering limits, and social distancing requirements, and most mandatory mass requirements,” said Cooper. “That means in most settings indoors or outdoors, the state of North Carolina will no longer require you to wear a mask, or to be socially distant.”


Exceptions to the updated masking guidelines include indoor mask mandates being upheld on public transportation, childcare, schools, prisons and certain public health settings, as well as the recommendation of masks for vaccinated people in large indoor settings such as sporting events or concerts.


Cooper initially stated that the relaxing of COVID-19 regulations would come when two-thirds of the population gained full immunity through vaccination. North Carolina currently has approximately 51% of its population fully vaccinated.


“We had said that we had hoped to get to two-thirds of people vaccinated before we suspended the indoor mask mandate,” said Cooper. “The CDC did a lot of research and reviewed a number of studies, what they showed was that if you get vaccinated you’ve got a lot of protection, and you also don’t really transfer the virus to other people, and the CDC said at that point is just not necessary for people who have been vaccinated, to wear masks, most of the time.”


However, Cooper and Secretary of Health and Human Services Mandy Cohen emphasized that while progress on vaccinations brought on these rule changes, there is still work to be done as far as increasing the numbers of vaccinated people.


“Today’s announcement is a big step forward but it is not the finish line. Just under half of North Carolinian adults are not vaccinated,” said Cohen. “We still want to reach our goal of two-thirds of North Carolinians 18 years and older with at least one vaccine dose. That is when we believe we will have enough protection across our communities to live more safely with this virus.”


While these statewide regulations have been lifted, Cooper stated that local governments, cities and businesses will still have autonomy in deciding things such as capacity, physical distancing, and masking rules.


UNC Wilmington (UNCW) officials have not yet announced any decisions regarding the fall semester since the new CDC guidance has been released. But UNCW and UNC Board of Governors (BOG) officials alike have previously stated that regulations for the fall semester will follow what the CDC recommends for universities.