Fact Check: North Carolina Did NOT Ban Face Masks In May 2024

Fact Check

  • by: Madison Dapcevich
Fact Check: North Carolina Did NOT Ban Face Masks In May 2024 Not Enacted

Did North Carolina implement a statewide ban on face masks in May 2024, as a post on Instagram claimed? No, that's not true: The post in question exaggerates the impact of a bill that would decide who can legally wear a face mask in public and for what reasons. The state Senate passed a version of the measure but as of May 2024, the state House had not. Therefore, there is no statewide ban as of this writing.

The claim included a photo of a crowd of masked people in a post on Instagram on May 18, 2024 (archived here). The image included a text overlay reading:


Here is how the post appeared at the time of writing:

Screenshot 2024-06-06 at 8.16.15 AM.png

(Source: Instagram screenshot taken Thu June 6 08:16:15 2024 UTC)

The post exaggerates the impact of House Bill 237 (archived here), which was first introduced on March 2, 2023.

On May 15, 2024, the state Senate passed a version of the bill, which called for ending an exemption to a 1953 law that prohibited mask-wearing in public except for certain occasions. This specific exemption, enacted during the COVID-19 pandemic, allowed citizens to wear masks in public, citing public health concerns. On May 22, 2024, the state House voted not to concur with the version of the bill that repealed the 2019 exemption, instead sending the bill back to committee for revisions. On June 6, 2024, the bill was resubmitted with language that would allow for the exemption of medical or surgical-grade masks to prevent contagious disease spread.

In its initial form (archived here), HB 237 sought to increase penalties for a person convicted of an offense while wearing a hood or mask. It passed (archived here) the House on May 3, 2023.

After more than a year in the Senate, HB 237 was altered (archived here) to amend a 1953 North Carolina law that prohibited (archived here) people from wearing face coverings in public places. The 1953 law reads:

§ 14-12.7. Wearing of masks, hoods, etc., on public ways.

No person or persons at least 16 years of age shall, while wearing any mask, hood or device whereby the person, face or voice is disguised so as to conceal the identity of the wearer, enter, be or appear upon any lane, walkway, alley, street, road, highway or other public way in this State.

There is a list of exemptions (archived here) to the law above, including traditional holiday costumes in season, employment where a mask is necessary for safety, theatrical productions or ceremonies. In 2019, lawmakers voted to add another exemption (archived here) during the COVID-19 pandemic, which allowed people to wear masks in public for the "purpose of ensuring the physical health or safety of the wearer or others."

On May 15, 2024, the Republican-led North Carolina Senate passed (archived here) a version of the bill that called for the removal of the 2019 exemption; the Instagram post refers to this vote.

On May 22, 2024, the House voted not to concur (archived here) with the Senate version of the bill, sending the proposed legislation back to committee (archived here) for potential revision.

On June 6, 2024, a newly revised version of the bill was adopted by committee, which changed (archived here) the language of the 2019 exemption::

Any person wearing a medical or surgical grade mask for the purpose of ensuring the physical health or safety of the wearer or others preventing the spread of contagious disease.

As of this writing, it is unclear when or if the new bill will be voted on.

At the time this was written, USA Today had reviewed the same claim.

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Lead Stories is working with the CoronaVirusFacts/DatosCoronaVirus Alliance, a coalition of more than 100 fact-checkers who are fighting misinformation related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Learn more about the alliance here.

  Madison Dapcevich

Raised on an island in southeast Alaska, Madison grew up a perpetually curious tidepooler and has used that love of science and innovation in her now full-time role as a science reporter for the fact-checking publication Lead Stories.

Read more about or contact Madison Dapcevich

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