4/29/21: GOVERNOR: JUNE 1 IS LIFTOFF FOR INDOOR MASK MANDATE IF 2/3 OF N.C. ADULTS ARE PARTIALLY VACCINATED AND COVID-19 METRICS ARE STABLE; PUBLIC SOCIAL DISTANCING, OCCUPANCY REQUIREMENTS ALSO WOULD END.

If two-thirds of North Carolinians age 18 and older have been at least partially vaccinated against the coronavirus and the number of new COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and other telltale COVID-19 metrics statewide remain stable, Governor Roy Cooper will lift the indoor-mask mandate and all other public restrictions, including social distancing, on June 1.

If two-thirds of all adults in North Carolina are not partially vaccinated by June 1, but COVID-19 metrics are level, the Governor said he would end all current restrictions except for the indoor mask mandate.

Governor Cooper announced this commitment last week, and he reiterated it at a 10-minute briefing yesterday at which he also announced a new executive order that will lift the outdoor mask mandate and ease restrictions on mass-gathering capacity limits, starting at 5 p.m. tomorrow.

New Executive Order 209 supplants EO 204 and is set to expire at 5 p.m. on June 1. See: https://files.nc.gov/governor/documents/files/EO209-Easing-Statewide-Restrictions.pdf

Although mask-wearing outdoors will no longer be required, both the Governor and Secretary of the N.C. Dept. of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) Dr. Mandy Cohen recommended yesterday that people still wear masks when they are in crowded areas outdoors or in higher risk settings where six-foot social distancing is difficult.

EO 209 also raises mass-gathering capacity limits from 50 to 100 people indoors and from 100 to 200 people outdoors. Larger venues for live entertainment may be eligible to increase their guest capacity if they receive pre-approval of their health and safety plans from the NCDHHS. Business occupancy limits currently in effect will remain in place.  

For a rundown of occupancy limits, see FAQs about the Executive Order at: https://files.nc.gov/governor/documents/files/EO-No.-209-FAQ.pdf.

Governor Cooper asked North Carolinians to “work hard in May” so that he can safely lift all public social distancing and mass-gathering capacity and occupancy limits on June 1, in time for summer.

“The critical piece of our success,” he emphasized, “is getting vaccinated.”

To this end, Dr. Cohen announced that the NCDHHS will be launching a “Bringing Back Summer” initiative in May to encourage vaccinations.

A community-centered campaign, Bringing Back Summer will rely on local organizations to register with the NCDHHS to obtain communication toolkits for use in encouraging people to get vaccinated. See https://covid19.ncdhhs.gov/BringSummerBack for details.

As of yesterday, Dr. Cohen said, 48.7 percent of North Carolinians age 18 and older had received one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and 39.2 percent of such adults were fully vaccinated.

An impressive 70 percent of all North Carolinians age 65 and older are fully vaccinated, the Secretary said, a figure that she noted has translated to a reduction of COVID-19 cases among this age group.

Dr. Cohen also said that the “very, very rare blood clot disorder” associated with the administration of the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which resulted in a “pause” in its use, occurred in only 15 cases out of 8 million doses. She expressed confidence in the J&J vaccine, which she herself received.

Vaccines are currently available to all North Carolina residents and property owners age 16 or older through the Dare County Dept. of Health and Human Services (DCDHHS).

You may register for vaccination online at www.darenc.com/covidvaccine or email the DCDHHS at covid19@darenc.com. If you register online, you should receive a call within 24 hours to schedule your appointment, according to the DCDHHS, which no longer has a waiting list.

Vaccines are also available through Walgreens, Sunshine Family Pharmacy, Island Pharmacy, Bear Drugs, and Beach Pharmacy. The DCDHHS advises that you should call the pharmacy directly to inquire about its vaccination protocols and to schedule an appointment.  

I would like to extend a personal thank you to Bear Drugs pharmacist Laurie Graham, who came out to my car to vaccinate a member of my family who is mobility-challenged. For that reason—and out of an abundance of caution—I did not register her for vaccination through the county.

I am happy to report that this elder suffered no ill effects from the first dose of her Moderna vaccine and enjoyed being out of the house for a change.

Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 4/29/21

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