Online Originals: What’s next after the mask mandates; local health experts weigh in


JACKSONVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) — On Friday, Gov. Roy Cooper lifted some of the COVID-19 restrictions in the state, including most mask mandates. While some may think this is good news, some may be confused as to what exactly this means.  

The lifted restrictions include capacity and gathering limits, social distancing requirements and most mask requirements being lifted. Masks are still required on public transportation, child care facilities, prisons, schools and certain public health settings, even if you are fully vaccinated.  

 “Last week the CDC did send out some guidance for those who have been fully vaccinated can remove their masks and resume activities that they were doing prior to COVID-19,” said Community Relations Officer for the Onslow County Health Department Victoria Reyes. 

Many chain businesses like Harris Teeter, Kroger and Home Depot still have mask requirements in place. Walmart, Sam’s Club, Costco and Target are some of the retail stores that just announced they will no longer require masks for their vaccinated costumers.  

“You might see some businesses you know just remove the mask enforcement, and then you might see some that will still require some sort of mask,” said Reyes. 

Many people still feel confused about wearing masks in general. ECU psychology professor Dr. Matthew Whited says that we will eventually adjust back to normal.  

“I think that people are generally going to react well to this,” said Whited. “Remember, we spent a whole lot of our lives not having to wear masks so adjusting to not having to wear them again I think will be decently easy for most people.”  

Whited says that this past year has been particularly tough on everyone. He said the lifting of some of these restrictions will be beneficial to people’s mental health.  

“I think that being able to engage in some of these things that are important to us and meaningful to us will be helpful in improving some of these overall mental health symptoms that we see,” said Whited. 

Most of these lifted restrictions are for vaccinated people. In North Carolina, over 3.5 million are fully vaccinated. That’s about 35% of the state’s population. The overall message is to do what you feel comfortable with while still following state guidelines.  

“If you are uncomfortable in a situation, you always have that opportunity to reach for your mask and wear it,” said Reyes.

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