Senate passes mask bill

RALEIGH — North Carolina Republicans unveiled a new law dealing with masks. There is once again an exception for people worried about spreading a contagious disease, but some health care advocates are concerned that’s still too restrictive.

“I have a lung transplant, which is going to protect me? This or this?” said resident Cat Williams while holding up a medical mask and a masquerade mask.

The masquerade mask is exempt from North Carolina’s mask ban.

The medical mask is also exempt only when worn to prevent the spread of contagious diseases.

Williams masks up because she had a double lung transplant. She’s not sure how the bill will impact her if it becomes law.

“I’m not going in restaurants,” Williams said. “I’m not going to concerts, but I need to go to the grocery store. I need to go to the pharmacy. I need to go to the doctor’s office. I can’t just stay home forever.”

The new mask bill says medical or surgical masks can be worn. It doesn’t say anything about cloth face coverings.

State lawmakers proposed the bill last month in response to protests on college campuses. Some protesters wore scarves that covered their faces to block their identities.

The bill increases criminal penalties for people who wear masks to conceal their faces while committing crimes.

It also criminalizes standing, sitting, or lying down in traffic during demonstrations.

Last month, the House rejected the bill because of fears raised by people who are immunocompromised.

“What we wanted to do was not allow folks to go out and break the law and conceal their identity doing so,” said House Speaker Tim Moore. “At the same time, we want to make sure we take care of folks who want for legitimate medical reasons.”

The Senate passed the new mask bill Thursday on a party-line vote. All Democrats walked out of the chamber in protest.

The House will consider it next week.

VIDEO: Voter says she was denied ID verification because of mask

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