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North Carolina Moves To Ban Masks In Public, Cites Demonstrators Hiding Identities

FILE - President Joe Biden removes his face mask as he arrives to speak about the economy during a meeting with CEOs in the South Court Auditorium on the White House complex in Washington, Thursday, July 28, 2022. Biden tested positive for COVID-19 again Saturday, July 30, slightly more than three days after he was cleared to exit coronavirus isolation, the White House said, in a rare case of “rebound” following treatment with an anti-viral drug. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)

The North Carolina state Senate voted along party lines Wednesday to ban anyone from wearing masks in public, even for health reasons.

Republican supporters of the ban said it would help law enforcement crackdown on protesters who wear masks. They say demonstrators are abusing COVID-19 pandemic-era practices to hide their identities following a wave of pro-Palestine protests nationwide and at North Carolina universities.

The bill goes even further and repeals an exception that’s been state law since the early stages of the pandemic that allows people to wear masks in public for health and safety reasons.

Thirty senators voted in favor of House Bill 237, 15 opposed it and five were absent.

Democrats raised concerns about the bill, particularly for those who are immunocompromised or those who may want to continue to wear masks during cancer treatments, WRAL News reported.

State Sen. Sydney Batch (D-Wake) is a cancer survivor and shared with her fellow senators how her family wore masks to protect her and her weakened immune system during treatment.

She and other Democrats proposed ways to amend the bill so police could still crack down on protesters but continue to have legal protections for health concerns, but they were shot down, the outlet reported.

GOP Sen. Buck Newton brushed off the concerns, saying no one saw “Granny getting arrested in the Walmart pre-COVID” and thinks law enforcement will use “good common sense” when applying the law, The Associated Press reported.

The AP noted that the state’s general statutes on masking date back to the 1950s in an attempt to curb Ku Klux Klan membership, the state passed a public masking ban.

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