Here is a condensed timeline of the removal of mask mandates within North Carolina:
In a press conference on Feb. 17, Governor Roy Cooper recommended that masks be optional after Mar. 7, 2022.
On Feb. 18, Wake County released a statement saying that the Wake County Government will be lifting its mask mandate effective 5 p.m. Friday, Feb. 25. The Wake County Government was joined with the City of Raleigh and the towns of Garner, Knightdale, Rolesville and Zebulon in this decision. The towns of Apex, Cary, Fuquay-Varina, Holly Springs, Wake Forest and Wendell already no longer had mask mandates in place.
Even with the mask mandate lifted, masks are required “some rooms within Wake County Government buildings, such as public health clinics, homeless shelters, detention facilities or courtrooms, may still require employees and visitors to wear masks.”
Following the Governor’s statement, the NC Department of Health and Human Services (NC DHHS) issued updated guidance recommending that K-12 schools move to voluntary masking.
On Feb. 22, 2022, NC State released a statement saying that effective Monday, Feb. 28, face coverings will not be required in most indoor spaces on campus. The university said that it was making this decision “in line with recent updates from the state and guidance from health officials.”
Face coverings will remain required in the following areas: classrooms and instructional settings, laboratories, clinical spaces including the Student Health Center and Veterinary Hospital, while on Wolfline buses, and for employees working in dining and other food-contact locations.
Students, faculty, staff, and other community members can decide what is best for them outside of these required spaces, “Although face coverings are not required in other indoor or outdoor spaces, you are encouraged to wear them if you feel more comfortable or safer doing so.”
NC State also removed the weekly COVID-19 testing requirement for individuals who have not provided proof of vaccination to the university. The campus community will still have access to free COVID-19 testing on campus. While all campus testing sites will remain open, their operating hours may change.
On Friday, Feb. 25, The City of Raleigh removed its mask mandate. Raleigh’s Mayor, Mary-Ann Baldwin, said that “The recent trends are all pointing in the right direction for the mandate to be removed.”
“Removing the mask requirement gives room for personal choice and responsibility. For those that are health compromised or feel more comfortable wearing a mask, they should feel empowered to do so.”
Employers are allowed to maintain their mask mandates on their premises and are “encouraged to make the choices they believe best fit their circumstances.”
On Feb. 25, the UNC System released an announcement saying that all system schools should be mask-optional starting Mar. 7 in all campus indoor settings including classrooms. Mar. 7 is aligned with the effective date of the NC DHHS updates K-12 guidance and the beginning of spring break for several UNC System schools.
“PPE requirements still must be followed where required by state or federal law and regulations, such as in clinical and health care settings, research laboratories, and on public transportation.”
On Feb. 28, NC State released another statement, stating that face coverings will be optional in most campus indoor locations including classrooms and other instructional settings.
Face coverings will remain mandatory where required by state or federal law/regulations including clinical and health care settings, identified research laboratories (does not include teaching labs) and on public transportation including Wolflife buses.
NC State is not allowing for unit-level requirements, saying “please remember that NC State colleges, departments, units, employees and students may not require more restrictive measures than those required by the university.”
“For example, you are welcome and encouraged to wear a face-covering in your classroom, work location or on-campus living facility, and you can encourage others to do the same. But if that setting does not fall into one of the location categories listed above, you cannot require others to do so.”
The university says that they will continue to monitor the pandemic “We will continue to monitor pandemic conditions and make adjustments to the university’s safety responses as needed.”
Tamaya Sutton, a fourth-year Animal Science student, expressed her feelings regarding the mask mandate saying “I work in rural counties where people were already not wearing masks. There have already been people in my classes not wearing masks. Nothing has really changed.”