Governor Roy Cooper updated public health guidelines for K-12 schools Wednesday. At a COVID-19 news conference, Cooper said among the protocols, kindergarten through 8th graders and staff will be required to wear masks indoors regardless of vaccination status. Schools with students in 9th through 12th grade should ensure mask-wearing indoors for anyone who has not received the vaccine. The announcement is part of the StrongSchoolsNC Public Health Toolkit, which aligns with the recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services' Dr. Mandy Cohen says schools need to use the additional safety protocols outlined there to continue to protect students and staff as they enter the new school year.
"With only 24% of North Carolinians ages 12 to 17 fully vaccinated and because anyone under the age of 12 cannot be vaccinated yet, we still have a long way to go," said Cohen.
The guidance goes into effect on July 30, 2021. The governor also said that North Carolina reported the highest numbers of new cases and hospitalizations in over two months. Most cases involved the new delta variant. He says the state has now entered a new phase of the pandemic marked by a laser focus on getting as many people vaccinated as possible.