Citing improving viral trends and increasing vaccination numbers, Governor Roy Cooper announced Wednesday that most capacity, gathering and distancing restrictions in North Carolina put in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic could come to an end by June 1.
Cooper said the current mask mandate will last through at least the end of May, and could be relaxed or even lifted if the state can get at least two-thirds of residents vaccinated against the coronavirus.
“Each shot in an arm is a step closer to putting this pandemic in the rearview mirror,” said Cooper during a press conference Wednesday where he was joined by state Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen.
“North Carolinians have shown up for each other throughout this entire pandemic and we need to keep up that commitment by getting our vaccines,” Cooper said.
To date, the state has administered over 6.5 million vaccines. 46.9 percent of adults are at least partially vaccinated, and 35.1 percent are fully vaccinated. More than 76 percent of people 65 and older have had at least one shot.
With vaccine now widely available across the state – often with no wait for an appointment, all North Carolinians 16 and older can plan to take their shot. The state anticipates lifting the mask mandate and easing other public health recommendations, once two thirds of adult North Carolinians have received at least one vaccine dose and if trends remain stable.
“We are at an exciting moment. We now have enough vaccine for everyone,” said Secretary Cohen. “If you are 16 and older, it is your turn to join the more than 3.6 million North Carolinians who have already taken their first shot. It’s up to you to get us to the two thirds goal as quickly as possible so we can live with this virus and begin to put this pandemic behind us.”
Gov. Cooper and Sec. Cohen urged North Carolinians continue to get vaccinated and exercise good judgment even when restrictions are lifted. Businesses should continue to follow voluntary health recommendations and North Carolinians should continue to take safety measures in order to boost the economy, keep children in schools and protect each other.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released statistics indicating that North Carolina is among the states with the fewest deaths and fewest job losses per capita.
State health officials are continuing to monitor the presence of COVID-19 and its more contagious variants in North Carolina, which is why it is important to continue to follow the state’s mask mandate and continue to practice safety precautions, including the Three Ws—wear a mask, wait 6 feet apart, and wash hands often.
This story originally appeared on OBXToday.com. Read More local stories here.