Healthcare Workers Highly Concerned After Senate Passes Republican-Backed Mask Ban Bill

By: Julia Mehalko | Published: Jun 11, 2024

North Carolina lawmakers have passed a Republican-backed bill that bans the public from wearing face masks in various circumstances.

This bill has greatly alarmed many healthcare workers and North Carolina residents who are immunocompromised.

Banning Face Masks in North Carolina

The North Carolina Senate voted last week to pass a revised bill that outlaws public mask-wearing in the state.

A close-up of blue face masks.

Source: Mika Baumeister/Unsplash

This Republican-backed bill was passed after Democratic lawmakers walked out of the voting session in protest after last-minute sections were added to the bill.


The “Unmasking Mobs and Criminals” Bill

HB 237, the original bill, pushed for North Carolina law to be reverted to what was in place before the COVID-19 pandemic. This law did not have any exceptions for people who wear masks because of disabilities or because they are immunocompromised.

A man wearing a white face mask outside.

Source: Anastasiia Chepinska/Unsplash

The bill, called the “Unmasking Mobs and Criminals” bill, was created in response to protests seen throughout the state.

Democrats Blasted First Bill

The first inception of the mask-banning bill brought great criticism from North Carolina Democratic lawmakers.

A close-up of many different colored face masks.

Source: Maskmedicare Shop/Unsplash

Democrats were mainly worried about the lack of exceptions attached to the bill. They wanted to ensure that those who wore masks for their health wouldn’t face any legal issues.

Republicans Counter Fears

State Republicans countered these Democrat worries by stating that immunocompromised people had nothing to worry about.

A woman walking down a street wearing a face mask on her phone.

Source: Mike Cox/Unsplash

Though no exceptions were attached to this first bill, Republicans explained that the police would use their best judgment when it came to enforcing this law.

A Compromise

However, many healthcare workers and North Carolina residents revealed their concerns about the lack of exceptions seen in this mask banning bill.

A close-up of many white and blue face masks.

Source: Noah/Unsplash

Eventually, a compromise was struck. Now, this latest version of the bill states that certain masks, such as “medical or surgical grade masks”, can be worn by residents in the public — as long as they’re wearing these masks to prevent the spread of contagious disease.


Worries Remain

Even though this compromise was met, many residents of the state remain incredibly worried about what this bill could put into law.

A woman wearing a face mask walking holding a luggage handle.

Source: Atoms/Unsplash

For example, though medical masks are allowed to be worn, there is no indication that cloth masks can be. This lack of clarity has further worried healthcare workers and the immunocompromised.


Residents Must Adhere to the Police

Upon agreeing to this compromise in the Senate, lawmakers also included the factor that anyone wearing a mask — even if they’re wearing it to keep from becoming ill — must take off the mask if law enforcement asks them to do so.

A close-up of red, white, and blue lights on a cop car seen at night.

Source: Michael Förtsch/Unsplash

Therefore, the police can ask a resident to remove their mask in order to identify the person.


A Response To Growing Protests

While the COVID-19 pandemic saw many Republican lawmakers publicly denounce mask mandates, this latest government response in North Carolina wasn’t pushed because of any fight against masks being used for health reasons.

Many people seen protesting, holding signs, while wearing masks.

Source: Clay Banks/Unsplash

Instead, this Senate move was in response to growing protests seen throughout North Carolina.


Protestors Wearing Masks

Recently, many protestors have begun to wear face masks while they are protesting in an effort to hide their identity.

A blue and white face mask on a dark road.

Source: Claudio Schwarz/Unsplash

Supporters of this bill have claimed that they are attempting to protect North Carolina communities from protestors who are bad actors. These lawmakers have stated that the current law allows these bad actors to hide their identity while they act in illegal activities, or while they “smash and grab.”


New Laws Against Mask

According to this bill, someone who is arrested will have their sentence increased by one class if they are arrested while also wearing a mask.

A close-up of a person picking up a white face mask.


While much of the publicity surrounding this bill has to do with mask-wearing, there are many factors included in it that have to do with protesting. If this bill is fully passed, it will criminalize people who intentionally stop traffic during a protest.


The Future of the Bill

Parts of this bill were already considered controversial. Though the Senate has passed it, the North Carolina House still has to vote on it.

A view of the North Carolina State Capitol building with people in front of it.

Source: DiscoA340/Wikimedia Commons

As the revised version of this bill included an unanticipated campaign finance section, the future of this current bill remains up in the air. Democrats have already criticized Republican lawmakers’ last-minute additions to the bill, especially as they consider this new factor to be an attempt to change upcoming governor elections in the state.