State officials plan to lift mandatory social distancing, capacity, and mass gathering restrictions by June 1, Gov. Roy Cooper said today (Wednesday) in a video briefing.
At the same time, Cooper and Sec. of Health and Human Services Mandy Cohen urged North Carolinians to continue getting vaccinated.
“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.”
The state will rescind the mask mandate and ease other public health recommendations once two thirds of adult North Carolinians have received at least one vaccine dose and if current trends remain stable.
The state has administered over 6.5 million vaccines. 46.9 percent of adults are at least partially vaccinated, and 35.1 percent are fully vaccinated. More than 76 percent of people 65 and older have had at least one shot.
North Carolina is among the states with the fewest COVID-19 related deaths, according to the Centers For Disease Control. Cooper also said that Bureau of Labor Statistics numbers show North Carolina has had lower unemployment due to COVID than other states.
Even when restrictions are lifted, Cooper said, businesses should continue to follow voluntary health recommendations and North Carolinians should continue to take safety measures.
“We are at an exciting moment. We now have enough vaccine for everyone,” said Cohen. “If you are 16 and older, it is your turn to join the more than 3.6 million North Carolinians who have already taken their first shot. It’s up to you to get us to the two thirds goal as quickly as possible so we can live with this virus and begin to put this pandemic behind us.”
The announcement was a reversal of some of Cooper’s more recent conferences, when he warned that even with declining numbers, new variants of COVID-19 could force the state to extend the pandemic emergency orders. Some officials speculated earlier this week that Cooper might rescind the mask mandate and other restrictions to deflect bills in the house and senate limiting the governor’s emergency authority.
On Friday State Supreme Court Chief Justice Paul Newby extended his most recent emergency order restricting access to courthouses, modifying some filing methods and hearings, requiring the use of face masks, and prohibiting anyone with COVID or who might have been exposed too the virus from entering courthouse facilities statewide.