RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCT) — Gov. Roy Cooper has called for an end to mask mandates for schools and local governments.

Cooper made the announcement at the start of Thursday’s NC Coronavirus Task Force meeting. Click here to read the latest from Gov. Roy Cooper’s press office with more on his announcement.

=====

Previous story

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper wants to talk about the state’s mask policies as COVID-19 case totals and hospitalizations have fallen in recent weeks.

Cooper scheduled a news conference for 3 p.m. Thursday to discuss guidance for mask-wearing, which largely centers around schools. Cooper said last week that his administration was reviewing mask guidance in light of falling transmission rates.

Nexstar affiliate WNCN is reporting Cooper is expected to recommend ending local mask mandates during his press conference. WNCN reports Cooper spokesman Ford Porter sent a tweet Thursday morning seemingly making the announcement for the governor.

“Throughout the pandemic we’ve continually evaluated safety measures to know what’s needed at that moment. Given declining numbers & available vaccines, the Governor will encourage ending local mask mandates,” Porter tweeted.

State health officials have strongly urged students and staff in K-12 schools to wear masks indoors, but it’s been left up to school boards to make mask-wearing required or optional. About half of the boards have now agreed to mask-optional policies.

Republican legislators like House Speaker Tim Moore want to let parents opt out of local school board mandates that make their children wear masks in school. A House education committee scheduled a Thursday morning meeting to consider such legislation.

WNCN also reports that, as of Thursday morning, all 100 North Carolina counties are still seeing the highest level of transmission, according to the CDC.

A statewide mask mandate expired last summer.