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home : news : education June 27, 2022

2/19/2022 8:21:00 AM
Hello Sunshine, Goodbye Masks!

Wayne Howard

School boards in North Carolina have been required to address the mask issue monthly. Recently, more of them are joining counties like Lincoln, Gaston, Catawba & Cleveland in making masks optional. Now the General Assembly has passed a law that if approved by the Governor will make masks optional in all schools statewide effective March 7th.

The bill now goes to Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper, who held a news conference while the final vote on it was being taken to encourage local governments — including boards of education — to end broad mask requirements, as COVID-19 transmission rates and hospitalizations fall.

"This (omicron) variant is clearly more contagious, yet generally causes less severe illness, particularly to people who are vaccinated and boosted. People know how to gauge their level of risk and decide how to best protect themselves," Cooper said.

The vote in both the NC House & Senate was a veto-proof majority, but several senators were absent.

While N95 and KN95 masks, when worn properly, offer some protection to the wearer and help to keep anyone who is infected but wearing one of those masks from spreading the virus. But experts say kids in school often don't have those masks and they don't wear the ones they have properly all day--covering both the mouth and nose. They also don't wear the masks while gathering for lunch. One leading epidemiologist told us, "that makes wearing the masks the rest of the day useless."

Votes by local school boards on mask mandates have been split. Catawba County's board reinstituted a mask requirement in January by a one-vote margin, then by the same margin reversed that decision a week later. Lincoln and Gaston County school boards have for several months voted 4 - 3 in favor of a 'masks optional' policy.

Statewide, the number of new cases has declined recently but is still greater than we were experiencing a year ago. 4,871 new cases were reported by NCDHHS on Friday.

The Lincoln County Health Dept. reported Wednesday that the two-week daily average of new cases had dropped to 57.2, the lowest it has been since December. There were 97 known active cases in Lincoln County.

The new law will not affect mask requirements by businesses, hospitals and doctors' offices, who will still be allowed to require masks if they so choose.  Most businesses have already dropped mask requirements, but medical facilities have not.  

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