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North Carolina Senate Passes Bill Banning Public Mask-Wearing for Health Reasons

North Carolina Senate Passes Bill Banning Public Mask-Wearing for Health Reasons

The North Carolina Senate has passed House Bill 237, which rolls back protections allowing the public to wear masks for health reasons, reports Courthouse News.

The bill eliminates a provision enacted during the Covid pandemic that permitted mask-wearing for health purposes. Previously, a 1950s law banned masks and hoods designed to conceal the wearer’s identity. While exceptions exist for costumes and celebrations, the new bill targets individuals using masks to hide their identities while committing crimes and protesters causing traffic disruptions on highways.

Senate Democrats expressed concerns that removing health-related exemptions could harm immunocompromised individuals and give police probable cause to stop mask-wearing citizens. They argue this move could lead to unintended consequences for those who wear masks for health reasons.

Republican proponents, including Senator Buck Newton, argue the bill aims to hold criminals accountable for disguising their identities during criminal activities. Newton believes some individuals exploit the normalization of masks to avoid identification.

Senate Minority Leader Dan Blue criticized the bill, stating it forces citizens to navigate unclear laws, potentially leading to large-scale consequences for health-conscious mask-wearers. Senator Danny Britt, also a Republican, claimed the health exemption was unnecessary and that the law only targets those intentionally concealing their identity.

The bill also addresses protesters who block traffic on major roads and highways. It imposes penalties, including up to 60 days in jail and a $1,000 fine for a first offense, with escalating charges for repeat offenses. Recent disruptions in cities like Durham and Raleigh, linked to protests over the Israel-Hamas war, highlighted the need for stricter regulations.

Senator Natasha Marcus, a Democrat, supported penalizing those concealing their identity for criminal purposes but emphasized the importance of protecting health-related mask use and the right to protest.