“I mean, are we going to let people choose which public health rules they’re going to follow?” Cooper asked.
Both the Senate and House approved the measure with slight veto margins, although several senators were absent. A handful of Democrats have joined GOP lawmakers in supporting the change.
Cooper ended a statewide mask mandate last summer, but at the time strongly urged school districts to approve policies requiring indoor masks for students and staff . The General Assembly then approved a law requiring districts to set mask policies this school year and school boards to vote on those policies monthly.
The number of districts that have ended staff and student mask mandate policies has skyrocketed in recent weeks as the number of reported positive cases has declined. Now just over half of the 115 districts have mask-optional policies, according to the North Carolina School Boards Association.
Local governments are also removing indoor mask policies. Mecklenburg County, the second-largest county in the state, voted on Wednesday to end its mask mandate on February 26.
GOP leaders have said it’s high time to let students attend schools without masks if their parents agree, saying state health guidelines recommending the wearing of masks have resulted in a requirement to fact. They pointed to surrounding states — most recently Virginia — that have removed mask mandates.