North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said Wednesday that school districts should require K-8 students, along with faculty, staff, and visitors, to wear masks while indoors this coming fall. He also mentioned this recommendation comes regardless of anyone’s vaccination status.
However, Cooper stopped short of announcing any type of statewide mask mandate. Instead, he said local officials will make the decision whether or not to mask up in schools. This is due to a majority of children not being vaccinated against COVID-19 in the foreseeable future.
The Pfizer/ BioNTech vaccine is currently the only one approved for adolescences over the age of 12, and clinical trials are still being conducted to see if the two-shot combo is safe for the younger population as well. Meanwhile, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are only available for people 18 and older.
North Carolina is one of many states to see new COVID-19 cases creep back up with the Delta variant as a culprit in the rise of hospitalizations.
“We’ve just had our highest numbers of cases and hospitalizations in about two months,” Cooper told reporters on Wednesday “There are a number of things, particularly in getting people vaccinated, that we are able to do because we’re in a state of emergency.”
New cases of the virus have increased from near all-time lows to over 7,200 reported last week. That was up from over 4,500 in the week prior, and an overall increase of 59%.
The CDC’s guidance on a mask mandate has swayed toward allowing teachers and staff who’ve been vaccinated not wear masks in schools. And like Cooper, they’ve passed on accountability to local officials who can make a better decision for their own school districts while evaluation the risks on a case-by-case basis.
“We want to show that when you do get vaccinated, that you are able to take off your mask,” NCDHHS Dr. Mandy Cohen said on Wednesday. “We hope that will be an additional incentive for our high schoolers to go get vaccinated.”
As of Wednesday, 56% of adults in North Carolina are fully vaccinated. This figure doesn’t account for 22% of minors between the ages of 12 and 17 who’ve been vaccinated.