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NC Senate Republicans are trying to veto the Free the Smiles bill

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RALEIGH, NC (WNCN) – Republican leaders in the State Senate scheduled a vote Wednesday to try to override the Democrats Governor Roy Cooper’s recent veto of a bill that would allow parents to opt out of school mask mandates.

The bill, dubbed the Free the Smiles Act, passed with enough Democrats voting that lawmakers could override Cooper’s veto if those lawmakers voted with them in favor of it.

To view the invoice click here.

CBS 17 has reached out to everyone since Cooper’s veto to ask if they would support the override, but no one has responded. It requires a three-fifths majority of the lawmakers present and voting to override a veto.

Cooper had urged school districts to lift their mask mandates by March 7. However, when he vetoed the bill, he labeled it “dangerous.”

“The bipartisan bill that the legislature passed and that I signed into law last year allows local bodies to make these decisions for their own communities, and that’s still the way to go. Passing legislation for political purposes that encourages people to choose which health rules they want to follow is dangerous and could tie the hands of public health officials in the future,” he said at the time.

On Wednesday, the North Carolina School Boards Association reported that all but five public school districts have either adopted mask-optional policies or set a mask-optional date. These five are: Durham Public Schools, Weldon City Schools, Hertford County Schools, Northampton County Schools and Warren County Schools.

Dozens of school districts have changed their policies in recent weeks as cases plummeted and the governor urged them to take those actions.

When asked if he still thinks the Free the Smiles Act is necessary, Republican House Speaker Tim Moore said, “I’m doing it because next week, when we’re out of session, we’re going to say they’re not going to return to what they were before is there a good reason for this?”

If the Senate overrides the veto Wednesday night, the House of Representatives will vote on it Thursday.

Ahead of Wednesday’s vote, the ABC Science Collaborative released a new study, published in the journal Pediatrics, that found there were lower rates of COVID-19 transmission in schools with general masking than schools without.

“The reduction in transmission was between 70 and 87 percent,” said Dr. Danny Benjamin, professor at Duke University and co-chair of the collaboration. “Masking works.”

For the study, which the authors noted was the first of its kind, the researchers surveyed more than 3,000 schools across the country from late August, when the delta rise was underway, to December, when the omicron rise began . To read the study click here: https://abcsciencecollaborative.org/universal-masking-in-schools-is-shown-to-reduce-spread-of-covid-19/

“In times of very, very high transmission, masking is something that’s not just keeping students and staff in school. But it also keeps social facilities like hospitals open,” says Benjamin. “So if in the future we get a variant that avoids vaccination, or we get very high scores in the future, schools can take that off the shelf now and use it appropriately as they see fit.”

Now that case numbers have fallen across North Carolina, Benjamin said he thinks it’s appropriate for school leaders to discuss whether to continue having mask mandates, and that the best course of action may differ from community to community. He found that some of his own children go to school with a mandate and some without.

dr David Weber, a professor at UNC, said he believes schools should wait until they lift their mandates.

“At this point in time, it doesn’t make sense to abolish the mask requirement in schools,” he said. “We should wait a few more weeks for interest rates to fall further. And we should encourage all children as young as five to get vaccines that protect themselves and their loved ones.”

He pointed to the low vaccination rate among eligible young children and criticized the legislature’s efforts to enact the Free the Smiles Act.

“I don’t think the state should pre-empt the ability of individual school districts if their parents, teachers and staff want to continue the mask mandate,” he said.

https://www.cbs17.com/news/nc-senate-republicans-to-attempt-veto-override-of-free-the-smiles-bill/ NC Senate Republicans are trying to veto the Free the Smiles bill

DUSTIN JONES

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