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Sporting events respond to lifting of North Carolina's outdoor mask mandate

Masks are still strongly recommended when in crowded areas and higher-risk settings, even if you're outside.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — North Carolina will lift the outdoor mask mandate on Friday at 5 p.m.

Under the new Executive Order, masks will still be required indoors but are no longer mandated outdoors. Masks are still strongly recommended, but not required, outdoors by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) in crowded areas and higher-risk settings when social distancing is difficult.

The North Carolina High School Athletic Association announced on Twitter, “Beginning Friday at 5 p.m. masks will now be optional for outdoor sports participants, including officials actively participating in the competition. All athletes & coaches not actively participating & who cannot socially distance should still wear a mask in the venue.”

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools said it will be following protocol set by NCHSAA.

In a news conference Thursday, NCHSAA Commissioner Que Tucker said the expectation is spectators will still wear masks at outdoor, high-school sporting events.

“Every school system will work to determine how they will manage letting fans into the game,” Tucker said.

The Charlotte Knights return to the field for Opening Day on May 4.

“Can’t wait for it to get here,” Dan Rajkowski, chief operating officer for the Charlotte Knights, said. “The last game was Aug. 29, 2019, well over 600 days ago.”

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Fans can expect to see cashless concessions, hand sanitizer and signs reminding them to space out. They should also still be prepared to wear a mask.

“Major League Baseball does not allow us to open the gates without masks,” Rajkowski said. “So, even though it was eased yesterday, Major League Baseball will not allow that when we open, so I think that’s really important for our fans.”  

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The ballpark will be at 30% capacity to allow for social distancing between fans.

Even though guests will notice additional safety protocol around the ballpark, America’s pastime will still be the same on the field.

“The game itself, you won’t see too much difference except for some of the coaches and managers will be masked, but other than that, the game goes on," Rajkowski said.

RELATED: 'The energy level is at an all-time high' as one of Charlotte's biggest events makes a comeback

The Wells Fargo Championship returns to the Queen City May 3 through 9 after a year of absence due to the pandemic.

Tournament director Gary Sobba said there have been lots of plans and changes throughout the last year to prepare for the golf tournament this year so that fans could attend.

“Health and safety is first and foremost,” Sobba said. “We’ve gone to mobile ticketing. We’ve gone to cashless payments. We do encourage fans to bring out chairs because we were not able to build bleachers just because we could not use a number of the seats.”

Fans will also want to bring a mask.

RELATED: Some big names headed to Charlotte for Wells Fargo Championship

According to PGA Tour guidance, masks are required at all times, both indoors and outdoors, with limited exceptions.

“While eating and drinking, they are not required to have their mask on,” Sobba clarified. “Otherwise, along the rope line, we really want people to wear their masks, and if they’re in groups, we really want people to wear their masks.”

Sobba said there are precautions in place to keep the players safe.

“There is a bubble," Sobba said. "The players are within the bubble, and there [are] no autographs this year, unfortunately especially for the children. But the field is loaded. I believe we have right now 10 of the top 15 players in the world ranked by the official world golf rankings.”

If people are planning to take a bus to the tournament, Sobba said the tournament is following safety protocol to space people out, so it may take a little longer. He encourages people to plan their day out and allows a little more time for transportation.

Contact Kendall Morris at kmorris2@wcnc.com and follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Off the Clock with Carboni is a weekly, in-depth, inside look at Charlotte sports, including the Carolina Panthers, Charlotte Hornets, and more, hosted by WCNC Sports Director Nick Carboni.
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