Just admit it—wearing a mask while running is awful.

Running is not my idea of a good time on its own, but there’s something about having a piece of fabric on your face when it’s not the dead of winter that’s miserable (and moist). Thankfully, it’s about to get easier for runners, bikers, skaters, hikers, and anyone else enjoying the warmer weather.

Roy Cooper announced Wednesday that the state is lifting its outdoor mask mandate starting April 30 at 5 p.m. The Department of Health and Human Services is still strongly recommending that folks wear masks in crowds and places where social distancing isn’t easy.

“Even though we’re continuing our dimmer switch approach of easing restrictions, we need to stay vigilant,” Cooper said at a press conference. “In addition to indoor masks, many of our strong safety requirements remain in place for public places in May, including social distancing and capacity limits, which continue to be important.”

The state also increased its social gathering guidelines: now, you can have an event of up to 100 people indoors, and 200 people outdoors. The maximum capacity for shops, restaurants, and movie theaters is the same as the last executive order: up to 100 percent for retail, museums, barbers, and outdoor spaces; up to 75 percent for indoor restaurant seating and fitness centers; and up to 50 percent for bars, venues, movie theaters, and conference centers.

About half of all North Carolinians over 18 have had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and nearly 40 percent are fully vaccinated. Cooper says that if two-thirds of North Carolinians are partially vaccinated by June 1, he plans to lift the mask mandate altogether. Currently, all three versions of the vaccine are available, including the Johnson & Johnson vaccine that had incredibly rare side effects. The DHHS website has a tool for finding a vaccine provider, if you’re still waiting for your shot.

Cooper’s newest call comes in spite of the fact that our COVID-19 numbers are stable, but not decreasing. There have been more than 1,765 new cases of COVID-19 reported today, and 1,117 people are currently hospitalized.  Younger people, in particular, are seeing an increase in cases. There’s also a fear among medical experts that we’ll see a fade in enthusiasm for COVID vaccines.

“While our numbers are mostly stable, we have more work to do to beat back this pandemic,” Cooper said in a statement. “Let’s work hard in May and get as many people vaccinated as we can before summer gets here.”

We still have a long way to go before we’re actually “post-pandemic.” But for now, we can enjoy having the sun beaming down on us without having to worry about whether you’ll have a weird face tan.

Follow Digital Content Manager Sara Pequeño on Twitter or send an email to spequeno@indyweek.com

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