Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, decreed Wednesday, April 28, that he will lift the mandate on masks for people outside, but that the indoor mandate will remain at least until June 1.
North Carolina’s COVID-19 restrictions are arguably the most stringent among Southern states, even as numbers — hospitalizations, deaths, infections — have fallen, or at least plateaued, across the board.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued guidance a day earlier removing the mask mandate outdoors.
Cooper continues to change the rules, hanging to a series of executive orders dating back more than a year. First, he talked of flattening the curve, so not to overburden hospitals. Then, he spoke of waiting for a vaccine.
Some 49% of North Carolinians 18 and older have gotten at least one dose of the vaccine; 40% are fully vaccinated.
Now, he said Wednesday, he doesn’t plan on further easing restrictions until two-thirds of state residents are vaccinated. It’s unclear, however, whether children not eligible for vaccines are part of this metric. Further, getting to that percentage may be impossible, as a good swath of the population refuses to get a vaccine.
“Those are not conditions upon which to end an emergency declaration,” Jon Sanders, research editor and senior fellow, Regulatory Studies at the John Locke Foundation, wrote in a blog post. “The governor is not bound by those metrics; he’s making them up. So the people of North Carolina should not be bound by those metrics. They are arbitrary and capricious measures, as were all of Cooper’s previously abandoned standards, as his actions proved. A responsible media would press him hard on this point, but our media won’t.
“Having a two-thirds vaccination rate and ‘stable’ ‘trends’ are Cooper’s formulations only. There is no reason, none, to treat these metrics as if they are written in stone. Put another way: Cooper, the media, and others need to stop pretending that ‘reopening metrics’ the governor made up on the fly are somehow forcing him not to reopen the state.”
Dr. Mandy Cohen, state health secretary, said the two-thirds number came as a result of consultations with “health experts,” and that 90% of people who get a first dose return for a second.
“We believe it’s enough protection in our community that we can live with this virus,” she said.
The new order also increases mass gathering capacity limits. The number of people indoors will increase from 50 to 100 and the number of people outdoors goes from 100 to 200.