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See the latest news and updates about COVID-19 and its impact on the Charlotte region, the Carolinas and beyond.

Omicron surge has increased school mask mandates, NC health director says

Charlotte-Mecklenburg students will continue wearing masks, as they have since schools opened Aug. 25.
Nancy Pierce
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Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools has required masks inside schools since the pandemic began.

North Carolina’s health director says the spike in COVID-19 cases after winter break has nudged more school districts to require masks. Elizabeth Tilson told the state Board of Education Thursday that as of Friday, 87 districts covering almost 80% of students require face coverings inside schools.

"As I know you all are aware, there is no statewide mask mandate. We do leave that to our local school boards to make that decision," she said. "And you can see several have shifted in January in response to the surge."

NC Department of Health and Human Services

The landscape of mask requirements constantly changes, because state law requires school boards to vote on mask policies at least once a month. Tilson noted that COVID-19 metrics are all starting to come down but remain well above the level where the state considers it safe to end school mask mandates.

All of North Carolina and most of the nation is still rated as "high transmission" by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The state suggests school districts can stop requiring masks when the rating reaches "moderate" or better.

Masks are currently required in Charlotte-Mecklenburg, Cabarrus and Iredell-Statesville, Mooresville and Hickory schools. They’re optional in Union, Gaston, Lincoln and Catawba counties.

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Ann Doss Helms has covered education in the Charlotte area for over 20 years, first at The Charlotte Observer and then at WFAE. Reach her at ahelms@wfae.org or 704-926-3859.