House Speaker Tim Moore in a 2020 press conference with Gov. Roy Cooper. House Speaker Tim Moore
House Speaker Tim Moore in a 2020 press conference with Gov. Roy Cooper.

Omicron cases are falling, but North Carolina is still reporting more than 10,000 cases a day and dozens of deaths.

A day after suggesting incorrectly that masks are “useless” in slowing the spread of COVID-19, one of North Carolina’s most powerful Republicans says lawmakers will pursue a new law allowing parents to opt out of local mask requirements. 

“Parents, not politicians, should decide whether or not to mask their children,” N.C. House Speaker Tim Moore, a Cleveland County Republican, said in a tweet announcing his chamber’s plans Friday afternoon.  

Despite Moore’s claims, masks serve a clear, data-tested purpose. Depending on the materials used, masks might vary in their effectiveness, but numerous studies have supported public health officials’ recommendations that wearing masks decreases the spread of COVID-19. 

Moore said the Republican-controlled House will pursue the legislation after handling redistricting matters following the NC Supreme court’s ruling against GOP-gerrymandered voting maps. 

The prospective masking law would likely be vetoed by Gov. Roy Cooper. Cooper has allowed local school boards to set their own policies on masks, but in general the governor has been supportive of districts that want to require masks, especially at a time when COVID-19 is still spreading in the state. Most of the state’s 115 school districts have chosen to require masks in the classroom.

As of Friday, North Carolina’s Omicron surge was waning, but the state is still reporting more than 10,000 cases a day and dozens of deaths. 

Public health experts say vaccination and boosters are still the best way to stay safe and avoid the worst symptoms of COVID-19.