Should Lawmakers Not Act, It May Soon Be Illegal to Wear Face Masks in North Carolina

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It may soon be illegal to wear a face mask in North Carolina, as lawmakers have so far not come to a conclusion on what to do regarding the state’s anti-mask law that will be back in place in August.

Come Aug. 1, should legislators not circle back on the issue, it will technically be against the law for adults to wear face masks in North Carolina. The law banning face coverings was passed decades ago specifically to target the Ku Klux Klan.

Discussions on what to do with the law broke down early Friday at the legislature, WRAL.com reported.

"We're trying to work out that middle ground to where individuals can feel free to wear masks and can feel free of penalties and of being forced to wear masks," Republican Sen. Ralph Hise said after 3 a.m. Friday, according to WRAL.com. It was then that the legislature wrapped up its business for at least two weeks.

Lawmakers approved an exemption to the anti-mask law in April in response to the coronavirus pandemic. The exemption runs out in August. House Minority Leader Darren Jackson has repeatedly tried to extend the exemption to February. 

It appeared he was on the cusp of succeeding until around 2 a.m. Friday, when Jackson’s amendment was dropped from the bill to which it was attached. 

"We're going to make it illegal to wear masks in this state Aug. 1," Jackson said. "I'll never understand how science and mask-wearing became so partisan."

House leaders said it was the Senate that saw the amendment dropped. House Majority Leader John Bell, a republican, reportedly said the issue became too complicated to handle in the late hours of the session, but noted he was optimistic it would be figured out before Aug. 1. 

The back and forth on the extension comes as Gov. Roy Cooper’s decision to require masks in the state was met in part with resistance, including by sheriffs in some counties who said they wouldn’t enforce the mask requirement. 

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