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Gov. Cooper addresses return to school plans as districts consider mask requirements

Governor Cooper stressed the importance of having kids back in the classroom but said vaccines will be key in making that as safe as possible

CABARRUS COUNTY, N.C. — North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper was in Kannapolis Tuesday to promote COVID-19 vaccines at Northwest Cabarrus High School. 

Governor Cooper stressed the importance of having kids back in the classroom but said vaccines will be key in making that as safe as possible. As vaccination rates across the state slow, he's concerned that could impact some back-to-school plans.

Parents in North Carolina could soon know whether or not their kids will have to wear a mask in school this upcoming year. Cooper talked about the state's plans while visiting Cabarrus County on Tuesday.

Students, teachers and parents survived an unprecedented school year. Most of it was online, and once kids were back in then with masks and social distancing. Governor Roy Cooper hoping that will change this year.

“I want our schools to go back in the fall as normal as possible,” Cooper said on Tuesday.

Many school districts are waiting for the state to give guidance on if students will still have to mask up. Gov. Cooper said his team is working on those plans now, and going through the CDC’s new guidance that fully vaccinated kids don't have to wear one in the classroom.

“We do know that it important for people who have not been vaccinated to wear a mask and obviously children who are under 12 are not vaccinated,” Cooper said. “But what we're going to do is look at all of that and come up with some recommendations very soon."

With most school-age children ineligible to get the shots, and the delta variant spreading throughout the country and state, how much virus is in the community could impact back to school plans.

“I am concerned not enough people are vaccinated," he said. "That is the key to getting out the pandemic for good is to get as many people vaccinated as possible."

He also toured a vaccine clinic held at NW Cabarrus High School, thanking the people getting vaccinated for protecting themselves and their community and asked them to encourage their friends and family members to do the same.

Vaccination rates have continued to slow down across the state.

"More than 99% of the people who are getting sick and dying now are unvaccinated," Cooper said. "Almost every single one is preventable. Almost every single death is preventable."

Cooper also said they are going to encourage as much in-person attendance as possible this upcoming school year, although he thinks virtual instruction can still play an important role.

According to data from the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), 50% of children older than 12 are fully vaccinated in North Carolina. The COVID-19 vaccine is currently only available for kids at least 12 years old. 

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Earlier in the day, Cooper announced Red Bull will build a new distribution center at the site of the former Phillip Morris plant in Concord. The new facility will bring hundreds of jobs and is expected to have an economic impact of more than $1.8 billion.

RELATED: Union County Board of Education to vote on masks in schools Tuesday

RELATED: As delta variant spreads, here's what health officials have to say about vaccinated people wearing masks

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