CHARLOTTE, N.C. — North Carolina students and teachers will be required to wear face masks as part of Governor Roy Cooper's executive order that mandates masks in public areas to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, or novel coronavirus.
Executive Order 147 was issued Wednesday and takes effect at 5 p.m. Friday, June 26. It will require all people in North Carolina to wear masks in places where physical distancing isn't possible.
Under the mandate, masks will be required for all teachers and adult staff members in schools. Masks will also be required for all middle and high school students. Face masks are not required for elementary students but they are strongly encouraged, if appropriate.
Masks will be worn by students and staff inside school buildings and anywhere on school grounds where they're near other people, including outside. They'll also be required when traveling on buses.
Children who attend day care or overnight camps are also affected. According to the mandate, all children age 11 and older must wear face masks at day care or overnight camp.
Lillian Canipe, 12, is dreading the thought of wearing a face mask.
"I don't like it! I can barely breathe in a mask in a doctor's office!" Canipe said. "My best friend, Aubrey, she's like, 'I hate the fact my grandma makes me wear a mask in the store!'"
Nicole Morton is a mother of three children, who are all 11-years-old and older.
Her kids are already wearing masks, and she doesn't understand why some parents are criticizing the mandate.
"You're not thinking about yourself," Morton said of critics. "You're not thinking about anybody else, and I feel like it's selfish."
The state will also require all child care workers to wear masks.
DHHS had previously only recommended wearing a mask.
The change comes a week after Mount Holly's Second Baptist Daycare shut down when one of its workers tested positive for COVID-19.
The daycare said the worker frequented many of the classrooms, the kitchen and front office of the facility, and she wasn't wearing a mask.
Earlier this month, North Carolina education leaders laid out three scenarios for how schools could look this fall.
Plan A would be closest to normal. All students would be allowed in the building with social distancing in hallways and cafeterias and daily temperature checks. Plan B would require six feet of distancing between students but they would remain on campus at 50% capacity. Students would only be allowed inside school buildings on certain days and would use remote learning the other days. Plan C would be complete remote learning for every student in every school.
“We hope we don’t get there, it’s basically what we had to do in March,” said Mark Johnson, state superintendent of public instruction.
North Carolina officials could announce a plan on how to reopen schools as early as the week of June 29, according to North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper who said an announcement was forthcoming "next week" during a news conference Wednesday.