RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Gov. Roy Cooper said the state’s Phase Two of reopening will be extended another three weeks – until July 17 – and a mask requirement will be in place Friday.
“Our numbers will keep us from moving ahead,” Cooper said.
Wednesday, North Carolina reported 1,721 new cases reported and 906 people in the hospital in relation with COVID-19 – marking the second-highest day in both of those categories since the pandemic started.
Since May 19, the number of people hospitalized has increased 56 percent, from being in the 500s to now over 900 in just a little over a month.
Phase Two was slated to end Friday. The mask requirement goes into effect at 5 p.m. Friday.
“I know this virus has been very difficult for business owners who are anxious to open their doors. We want them to open safely,” Cooper said.
In terms of face coverings, Cooper said people must wear face coverings when in public places, indoors or outdoors, where physical distancing of six feet from other people who aren’t in the same household or residence isn’t possible.
“They will be required for all employees and customers of retail businesses and restaurants as well as workers in manufacturing, construction, meat processing and agriculture settings,” Cooper said.
Exceptions include those with medical conditions and children under 11, people who are at home and people who are walking or otherwise exercising outside when not within six feet of others.
Cooper, along with Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen, said masks have been shown to help slow the spread of the virus.
“Overwhelming evidence that is growing by the week shows that wearing a facecovering can greatly reduce the spread of COVID-19, especially from people who have it and don’t know it yet,” the governor said.
Cooper said the mask requirement was put in place so North Carolina doesn’t go backward.
“We want to stabilize our numbers so we can continue to safely ease restrictions, and most importantly, get our children back in school,” Cooper said.
Cooper said law enforcement can cite businesses for violation of the mask requirement.
Also, if a customer refuses to wear a mask in a business, the individual can be cited for violations such as trespassing, the governor said.
Cohen presented the latest data concerning COVID-19 in North Carolina and said the trajectory or COVID-like syndromic cases and the overall trajectory of cases are trending in the wrong direction.
The trajectory of positive tests as a percentage of total tests, which remains elevated, not where Cohen wants the state to be.
The governor spoke about Dr. Anthony Fauci testifying before Congress on Tuesday where he spoke about North Carolina.
“Dr. Fauci cautioned that leaders in our state have to act to blunt the surge of cases. He also testified that the next couple of weeks are critical for our country in our fight against COVID-19,” Cooper said.
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