The Orange County Board of Education unanimously voted to lift indoor school mask mandates in a meeting on Monday.
Masks will be made optional for students within 72 hours of Orange County government lifting its indoor mask mandate. County leaders announced on Friday that they would keep it in place for the time being.
The board of education decision comes after Gov. Roy Cooper recommended on Thursday that local governments and schools lift mask mandates starting March 7.
"We would not have the authority to lift our masking mandate without the county first lifting the mandate," Patrick Abele, deputy superintendent of operations, said.
The board also voted unanimously to discontinue all required COVID-19 testing for unvaccinated athletes effective Tuesday. The testing site for athletes will be available Tuesday, but participation will now be optional.
The optional testing program will still be available, but Sylvia Compton, lead nurse for the district, said only 496 out of 7,000 eligible students signed up for optional diagnostic testing.
Compton said symptomatic students can get a COVID-19 test at the nurse's office if registered within the diagnostic program.
From Feb. 13 to Feb. 19, Orange County reported 245 positive COVID-19 cases. As of Monday, 79 percent of the county's eligible population are fully vaccinated with one dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine or two doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines.
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