North Carolina GOP lawmakers agree to add a health exemption to a bill that limits masking

RALEIGH, N.C. — Republican lawmakers in North Carolina struck a compromise on a bill that now maintains a health exemption for masking in public while preventing the use of masks during criminal activity, but only one chamber chose to vote on it Thursday.

The state Senate passed the new masking bill — negotiated by both chambers to remedy concerns on the removal of a pandemic-era health exemption — in a 28-0 vote that Senate Democrats were absent from in protest. But after a canceled committee and a lengthy private discussion among House Republicans, the House did not take up an immediate vote, which stalls the bill’s passage to Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper for at least a few more days.

Republicans supporters say the legislation was prompted in part by the widespread use of masks by those protesting on college campuses nationwide against Israel’s war in Gaza — including at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Before the compromise, the bill eliminated a 2020 exemption for people who wore masks for health purposes in public, which outraged Democrats who said immunocompromised people could be unfairly targeted.

Under the new changes, the bill now allows anyone in public to wear “a medical or surgical grade

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