Guidance for Residents

On May 14, 2021, Governor Roy Cooper enacted Executive Order 215 which will remain in effect until June 11, 2021 at 5 p.m., unless repealed, replaced, or rescinded.

Major changes:

  • Face covering requirements are lifted in most settings. (See details below addressing where these requirements are still applicable.)
  • Capacity restrictions are lifted in all settings.
  • Social distancing requirements have been lifted in all settings. (For example, there is no longer a requirement that tables in restaurants be spaced out.)

Staying the same: 

  • Nothing prevents people from continuing to wear face coverings, which are recommended for unvaccinated people and for all people in large venues.
  • Employers, business owners, and local governments may require face coverings and social distancing.
  • Because children are still unvaccinated and can easily spread COVID-19, face coverings are still required in child care, children’s day camps, and children’s overnight camps. Nothing in today’s Executive Order changes the StrongSchoolsNC Toolkit requirement for face coverings in schools.
  • The CDC has advised that face coverings should continue to be required in several health care settings, in transportation settings like airports and bus stations, in correctional and detention facilities, and at homeless service providers. This Order continues those face covering requirements.
  • Local governments can implement stricter COVID-19 face covering, capacity, and social distancing requirements.

Why the changes to face covering requirements now?
The state has continued to show progress in its key COVID-19 metrics and has reduced the risk of transmission of COVID-19. The science and data demonstrate that vaccines are working and are effective against COVID-19 variants. In addition, on May 13, 2021 CDC Guidance for Fully Vaccinated People advises that the evidence suggests that fully vaccinated people are less likely to transmit COVID-19 to others. The CDC, in its May 13 Guidance therefore advises that in most settings, fully vaccinated people can resume activities without wearing face coverings or physically distancing.

The following establishments, businesses, and institutions are required to follow NCDHHS Guidance with respect to indoor face covering requirements and all other COVID-19 related restrictions and recommendations:

• Schools
• Child care facilities
• Children’s day or overnight camps
• Certain health care settings like long term care centers
• Public or private transportation regulated by the State of North Carolina and North Carolina airports, bus and train stations or stops
• Prisons and establishments that are providing shelter to people experiencing homelessness
• Establishments that are providing shelter to people experiencing homelessness

Why are face coverings still required in these settings?
Individuals in these settings may be at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19, and therefore, are subject to specific NCDHHS guidelines.

I’m in a setting that still requires face coverings under the Order. Do any exceptions apply?
Yes. A face covering does not need to be worn by an individual who:

  1. Should not wear a face covering due to any medical or behavioral condition or disability (including, but not limited to. any person who has trouble breathing, or is unconscious or incapacitated, or is otherwise unable to put on or remove the face covering without assistance);
  2. Is under five (5) years of age;
  3. Is actively eating or drinking;
  4. Is seeking to communicate with someone who is hearing-impaired in a way that requires the mouth to be visible;
  5. Is giving a speech for a broadcast or to an audience;
  6. Is working at home or is in a personal vehicle;
  7. Is temporarily removing his or her face covering to secure government or medical services or for identification purposes;
  8. Would be at risk from wearing a face covering at work, as determined by local, state, or federal regulations or workplace safety guidelines;
  9. Has found that his or her face covering is impeding visibility to operate equipment or a vehicle; or is a child whose parent, guardian, or responsible person has been unable to place the Face Covering safely on the child’s face.

Anyone who declines to wear a face covering for these reasons should not be required to produce documentation or any other proof of a condition. Children under two (2) years of age should not wear a face covering.

Can businesses still require guests to wear face coverings despite the restrictions being removed?
Yes. Businesses can still require guests to wear face coverings in their establishments.

What are the capacity limits and social distancing requirements on businesses covered by this Executive Order?
There are no capacity or social distancing requirements put in place under this Order.

Has Wake County implemented stricter face covering requirements? 
No. While this Order does not prohibit counties and cities in North Carolina from enacting ordinances and issuing state of emergency declarations which impose greater restrictions or prohibitions, Wake County has not issued other requirements at this time.

I still want to wear a mask. What can I do to ensure my mask is as protective as possible?
NCDHHS has additional recommendations to improve mask wearing based on guidance from the CDC. To ensure masks are as protective as possible, NCDHHS recommends that you:

  • Make sure your mask fits snugly against your face and covers your nose and mouth. To help with a snug fit, you can use a mask with a metal strip along the top of the mask.
  • Use two or more layers for your face covering. You can do this by wearing a cloth face covering with two or more layers or by wearing one disposable mask (sometimes referred to as a surgical mask or a medical procedure mask) underneath a cloth mask.
  • Do not wear two disposable masks.

For more info on North Carolina’s COVID-19 response, call the NC 2-1-1 hotline or consult the state’s COVID-19 guidance resources.

Risk for Severe Illness Increases with Age

Among adults, the risk for severe illness from COVID-19 increases with age, with older adults at highest risk. Severe illness means that the person with COVID-19 may require hospitalization, intensive care, or a ventilator to help them breathe, or they may even die. The CDC has guidance for older adults, including tips to reduce your risk of contracting the virus.

Who Should Be Tested for COVID-19? 

  • People who have symptoms of COVID-19.
  • Most people who have had close contact (within 6 feet for a total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period) with someone with confirmed COVID-19.
    • Fully vaccinated people with no COVID-19 symptoms do not need to be tested following an exposure to someone with COVID-19.
    • People who have tested positive for COVID-19 within the past 3 months and recovered do not need to get tested following an exposure as long as they do not develop new symptoms.
  • People who have taken part in activities that put them at higher risk for COVID-19 because they cannot physically distance as needed to avoid exposure such as travel, attending large social or mass gatherings, or being in crowded or poorly-ventilated indoor settings.
  • People who have been asked or referred to get tested by their healthcare provider, or statetriballocalexternal icon, or territorial health department.

CDC recommends that anyone with any signs or symptoms of COVID-19 get tested, regardless of vaccination status or prior infection.  If you get tested because you have symptoms or were potentially exposed to the virus, you should stay away from others pending test results and follow the advice of your health care provider or a public health professional.

Go to for more information on free testing opportunities.

Get Your Health Questions Answered

UNC Health, WakeMed Health & Hospitals and Duke Health have also created dedicated COVID-19 health lines to help answer specific health-related questions and to help people assess their risk.

UNC Health

UNC Health patients with coronavirus symptoms should call their primary care provider’s office to determine if and where they should be tested for COVID-19. This may result in a referral to a UNC Health Respiratory Diagnostic Center or to a UNC Virtual Care center.

UNC Health patients can also call a UNC Health Helpline at 1-888-850-2684 before visiting a doctor’s office or an urgent care location. Please note: This HelpLine is experiencing high volumes of calls. The current hours for UNC Health Respiratory Diagnostic Centers are 8 a.m.–5 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 8 a.m.–noon Saturday and Sunday.

WakeMed Health & Hospitals

Patients can call the WakeMed Health Help Line at 919-350-5200 between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. to connect with a provider for an initial phone evaluation.

WakeMed Virtual Urgent Care can also help evaluate COVID-19 risks, assess symptoms and provide support by video to help you find the most appropriate level of care while minimizing exposure. You can be seen online 24/7 using a smartphone, tablet or computer without leaving home. Consults are available on-demand, and no appointment is necessary. To get started, visit or download the WakeMed All Access App.

Duke Health

Duke Primary Care and Urgent Care have opened dedicated Respiratory Care Centers to diagnose and address people experiencing COVID-19-like symptoms. People who are experiencing symptoms can call the Duke Health COVID-19 hotline at 919-385-0429 between 8 a.m. — 8 p.m. seven days a week. Nurses will triage callers and advise on whether self-quarantine, tele-medicine or in-person appointments are recommended.

You can learn more about Duke Health’s COVID-19 response here.

Contact Information

  • Specific questions about COVID-19 and your risk:
    email [email protected]  or call 919-250-1500
  • Business-related questions:
    call the state at 2-1-1
  • Housing:
    email [email protected] or call 919-856-5661

Please note that any email correspondence sent to any of the above email addresses could be subject to North Carolina’s Public Records Law (Chapter 132 of the North Carolina General Statutes).

Resources for More Information