RALEIGH – Governor Roy Cooper announced at a Wednesday press conference that he will not extend the statewide mask mandate for schools and other settings, letting it expire July 30. New guidance from Public Health Czar Dr. Mandy Cohen and the team at N.C. Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) will instruct schools that they should require masking of students kindergarten through eighth grade, citing the current inability of those under 12 to get the vaccine.
The guidance is carefully worded to aggressively imply masking requirements without actually mandating it.
Being that it is not required, the debate over whether ‘to mask, or not to mask’ will now spread out around the state. No doubt, many school districts will elect to require masks and follow those stringent guidelines, even for the vaccinated.
Wake County has already moved in this direction, and with the CDC expected to urge continued masking for students under 12 more counties will follow. Union County and Rowan-Salisbury schools already voted to make masks optional for students and staff. Surely, many other counties will move expeditiously toward either model, but there’s bound to be a lot of tense debate around the subject at school board meetings across the state.
With the order’s expiration the issue goes back down to the local level where it belongs, and that’s a good thing. However, that doesn’t mean many of these county governments will be any better at avoiding fear narratives that lead to unnecessary and ineffective masking of kids at school.
Meanwhile, teachers unions and panic mongers are reviving the topic of required vaccinations for students as we near the point where vaccines are made available for those 5-12 years old.
Find more on the updated guidance here.