North Carolina House Passes Revised Mask Ban

In a crackdown on protesters, the state is hampering people from wearing masks.

A person with pale skin and red curly hair looking to the side, wearing a blue surgical mask and a watermelon kippah.

Mark Bialek/Zuma

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On Tuesday, the North Carolina GOP Representatives passed a mask ban on private property in a crackdown on protesters, even as a new subvariant of coronavirus spreads across the United States. The vote was 69 for the measure and 43 against It now goes to the governor’s desk.

Last week, the House of Representatives modified the bill to allow “a medical or surgical grade mask for the purpose of preventing the spread of contagious disease,” keeping some aspects of the health exemption for mask-wearing. But, on public or private properties, like at grocery stores or at a workplace, people can be required to remove masks if requested.

The bill, which was drafted in response to people wearing masks at Pro-Palestinian protests and encampments, can be passed by the General Assembly even if Democratic Governor Roy Cooper vetoes it through an override.

Democrats in North Carolina spoke against the bill before the vote. Democratic State Rep. Maria Cervania also said that the bill says people can only wear masks for contagious diseases, which ignores people who need to wear them for allergies or are immunocompromised. Later, Democratic State Rep. Pricey Harrison said she’s nervous about not being allowed to wear a mask for her asthma and is also worried about people of color being targeted for mask-wearing.

Many healthcare professionals have expressed concerns that their patients would not be able to stay safe against the spread of Covid-19 and other infectious diseases. Dr. Diana Cejas, a University of North Carolina pediatric neurologist who survived cancer and a stroke, told Mother Jones last month:

“Some of our legislators have made the argument that this ban won’t apply to those of us who mask for medical reasons, but I think that we all know that won’t be true. We already face scrutiny and outright harassment at times for the ‘crime’ of trying to protect ourselves from illness, particularly us disabled and chronically ill people of color and those with other marginalized identities.”

Some types of masking are still allowed, like costume masks on Halloween.

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