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Gov. Cooper lifts outdoor mask mandate, increases mass gathering limit

Gov. Cooper's goal is for 66% (two-thirds) of all eligible adults to have at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine before lifting the mask mandate.

RALEIGH, N.C. — Governor Roy Cooper announced Wednesday that masks will not be required outdoors starting Friday, April 30. His new executive order also increases the mass gathering limit to 100 people indoors and 200 people outdoors. 

Masks will still be required in indoor public spaces. Gov. Cooper said he plans on lifting mass gathering and capacity limits by June 1 if COVID-19 trends continue to improve. However, he said the mask mandate for indoors will not change by that date unless more people get vaccinated and if COVID-19 metrics continue to improve. 

Cooper's goal is for 66% (two-thirds) of all eligible adults to have at least one dose before lifting the mask mandate as well as other restrictions on mass gatherings and capacity limits.

Greensboro business owners said they'll likely continue to require masks, even if the mandate is lifted statewide. 

"We're starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. We still have a tunnel to go through," said Machete owner Tal Blevins. 

Blevins said his focus remains on safety and the comfort of the customers that come to Machete. 

"We'll probably see some restrictions lifted in June. We might be able to go up to full capacity then. I will say, we’ll go ahead and keep the masks for a while. Everyone on the Machete team is fully vaccinated now so we feel really good about that," said Blevins. 

Vintage to Vogue Boutique Owner Jennifer Graf said the precautions that have been put in place over the course of the last year have proven to work. 

"This is the first year I’ve not gotten sick, period. So it says something," said Graf.

Graf said no matter the restrictions, she hopes customers continue growing more comfortable coming out to shop locally. 

"Business is picking up. I think as people are getting vaccinated, the weather is beautiful, people are itching to get outside. It's definitely picking up and the nice thing about business picking up is it's reenergizing," said Graf.

As of Wednesday's state task force briefing, 49% of North Carolinians have had at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, and 39% of adults have been fully vaccinated. 

The numbers for seniors ages 65 and older are even better - 72% in that age group are fully vaccinated. 

NCDHHS Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen said state health officials agreed on the goal of two-thirds of North Carolinians partially vaccinated, saying that most people who have gotten their first vaccine will likely get their second dose shot. 

"It's not herd immunity level, but it is enough community protection, so that we can live with this virus," Cohen said. 

Cohen also gave an update on North Carolina's four key metrics for COVID-19. The state is doing better, but some key metrics still remain level or aren't budging much.  

  • COVID-like syndromic cases: Good (gets a green check)
  • Trajectory of cases: Level, cases remain elevated (gets a yellow line)
  • Percent of positive tests: Holding steady, hovering around goal of 5% (get a green check)
  • Hospitalizations: Level (gets a yellow line)

The CDC eased some mask-wearing recommendations Tuesday. U.S. health officials now say people who are fully vaccinated don't have to wear masks all the time while outdoors. However, masks are still suggested in large crowds. 

Health officials hope the CDC's latest guidance will convince more vaccine skeptics to get their shots.