Local News

With only 36% of NC population fully vaccinated, shoppers split on whether to unmask

Posted May 15, 2021 2:31 p.m. EDT
Updated May 16, 2021 9:35 a.m. EDT

— Gov. Roy Cooper's announcement that North Carolina no longer requires social distancing or masks gave many people cause for celebration – but not everyone is comfortable with the eased restrictions.

New COVID-19 cases are averaging about 1,300 each day, and only 36% of the total state is fully vaccinated – leaving a large percentage still feeling unprotected.

About half of the adults in the state have had one shot, but many are still waiting for their second dose – and some of them are nervous about the sudden lift in restrictions.

"I adore Cooper, but I don't agree with this decision," said Clarissa Lewis. "I think the mask mandate should have remained in place longer. It's too soon. We are nowhere near herd immunity."

"I'm happy about the progress, but I'm not quite ready to take my mask off in public," said Patric Pederson.

Concern for adults and children still waiting for their vaccine

Cooper had originally said he would lift the statewide mask mandate on June 1, or after two-thirds of adults statewide had at least one COVID shot. Some locals, especially those still waiting on their second vaccine, feel this was a safer plan.

Nikeya Cox said she plans to continue wearing a mask for peace of mind.

"You never know if someone is vaccinated or not, so just to keep it leveled out and just protect ourselves," she explained. "We've been doing it for a year now. It's almost become a way of habit."

Some businesses have opted to play it safe and continue requiring masks.

Another concern is protecting young people who have not yet had a chance to get vaccinated. The percent of children 17 and under testing positive for the virus has been increasing, according to Dr. Mandy Cohen, secretary of the state Department of Health and Human Services.

Noticing flu and cold protection, some will wear masks indefinitely

Many locals also noticed that wearing a mask protected them from many other illnesses – with flu cases and even the common cold seeming far less common during the mask mandate. Some people, like Gregory Harwood, plan to keep wearing masks long after the pandemic is over.

"It's not difficult to wear a mask, and I didn't get sick even once during the past year," he said.

"I'm vaccinated so I will not wear one as much [but I] plan to wear one during flu season," said Shannon Heatley-Keeney.

For as many people who are nervous about seeing social distancing and mask requirements eased so suddenly, many others are excited to "breathe the fresh air."

"I think I can finally go to the gym and not suffocate," said Joy Simmons.

"I feel like I'm kind of out of jail," said Joe Skinner. "I've been vaccinated for six to eight weeks, so I feel perfectly safe."

Around 75% of seniors are vaccinated, and vaccines are more accessible for the general population now.

Some grocery stores, restaurants, pharmacies and retail stores will continue requiring masks.

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