With Vaccinations Going Up, Cooper Announces He’ll Relax COVID Restrictions in NC

Gov. Roy Cooper on Thursday said some local governments in North Carolina can begin easing mask mandates.

By Emiene Wright

April 21, 2021

With more people vaccinated, NC Gov. Roy Cooper is ready to lift restrictions that limited capacity at restaurants, bars and more.

Summer is coming, and relaxed COVID restrictions means there will be more chances for us to safely be around each other. 

On Wednesday, Gov. Roy Cooper announced a timeline for lifting most of the state’s COVID-19 restrictions by June 1. One notable exception is the mask mandate, which will stay in place for now and requires people to wear masks in public places. 

The relaxed rules is expected to greatly impact restaurants, bars, music venues and other places that host social gatherings, which have been operating under occupancy limitations and social distance parameters since last year. 

“After June 1, we hope that that mask mandate would only be required for people in public places indoors,” Cooper said.

Cooper and Mandy Cohen, the NC Health and Human Services Secretary, encouraged people to continue getting vaccinated and practicing safety measures as the fastest way to end the pandemic. 

“Each shot in an arm is a step closer to putting this pandemic in the rearview mirror,” said Cooper. “North Carolinians have shown up for each other throughout this entire pandemic and we need to keep up that commitment by getting our vaccines.”

Over 16? You Can Get Vaccinated

All North Carolinians over age 16 are now eligible for the vaccine. 

It is free for everyone, with no photo ID or proof of citizenship required. More than 6.4 million doses have been distributed, and about 2.8 million people — or 27% of the state’s population — are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Still, the seven-day average of new cases over the last four weeks has been creeping up, from 1,500 in March to 2,000 in April.

Currently, the state’s health department requires establishments to maintain a 6-foot separation between parties and limit indoor occupants to 75% of fire capacity, or 18 people per 1,000 square feet. Outdoor establishments may operate at 100% capacity so long as 6 feet of social distancing is maintained. After June 1, if trends are stable, masks may only be required in public indoor places. The governor hopes to ease the mask mandate altogether when two-thirds of adult North Carolinians are at least partially vaccinated.

“We can bring back summer,” Cohen said, according to WCNC. 

Cooper and Cohen urged North Carolinians to continue following safety measures and businesses to follow voluntary health recommendations even after restrictions are lifted. 

An executive order specifying safety restrictions for May is expected next week.  


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