It’s official: You no longer need to wear a mask outside or maintain social distancing in North Carolina.

Governor Roy Cooper lifted the state’s mask mandate, which required social distancing and limits on public gatherings, Friday, effective immediately. The order comes as cases continue to decline with nearly half of adults vaccinated. 

Masks are still strongly recommended in large crowded areas.

“This is a big step forward toward living our lives the way they were before the pandemic,” Cooper said during an afternoon press conference.

Some restrictions remain in place including mask mandates on public transit, prisons, public schools, childcare settings, and certain healthcare settings. 

However, even with most restrictions lifted, Cooper said businesses and local governments can still require masks if they choose.

There were 1,501 new cases of COVID-19 reported Friday, a 3.8 percent positivity rate among those tested. Since the start of the pandemic, 12,862 North Carolinians have died from the virus. 

As of Friday, nearly 4 million adults in the state, 51 percent of the population, have received the first dose of the vaccine and 46 percent are fully vaccinated. Still, Department of Health and Human Services secretary Cohen said half the state is still vulnerable to the virus. 

“Today’s announcement is a big step forward but it’s not the finish line,” Cohen said. 

Those who have not yet received a vaccine are urged to do so. 

“Now is the time to get vaccinated if you haven’t,” Cooper said. “It’s easy and everywhere.”

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