Mask mandate in effect Friday; Phase 2 restrictions extended in NC

NORTH CAROLINA — Gov. Roy Cooper announced Wednesday that North Carolina will pause and continue its “Safer At Home” Phase 2 for another three weeks.

“This is not where we planned to be or wanted to be, but it is one of two important decisions that we need to make to effectively fight this disease,” Cooper said at a news conference.

[FAQ: Everything you need to know about NC’s mask, face-covering mandate]

North Carolina is also requiring face coverings when people are out in public starting 5 p.m. Friday.

People must wear face coverings when in public places, indoors or outdoors, where physical distancing of 6 feet from other people who aren’t in the same household or residence isn’t possible, Cooper said.

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.

There are exceptions but are not limited to:

  • People with medical conditions
  • Children under 11
  • People who are at home
  • People who are walking or otherwise exercising outside when not within six feet of others
  • Click here for more exceptions.

Cooper said a business can be cited for failure to comply, and customers who refuse to wear a mask can be charged with trespassing.

Cooper said, “Law enforcement can cite the business for failing to have employees and customers in the public not covering faces, so the business can be cited for violation of this.”

CMPD said it will not cite individuals not complying with the mandate.

“These only work when we all do it,” said Dr. Mandy Cohen, secretary of the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services. “If each person commits to wearing a face covering, we can stabilize our COVID-19 trends.”

Cooper hopes to ease restrictions on playgrounds, museums and gyms on July 17.

North Carolina had 1,721 new cases and 906 people in the hospital Wednesday, and it is the second highest day in both of those categories since the pandemic started. There have also been 1,271 people who have died.

North Carolina has been careful in lifting COVID restrictions, Cooper said. Because public health experts warn that removing restrictions too fast or all at once can cause a dangerous spike in the virus that would overwhelm our medical system.

“Our cautious approach is like a dimmer switch, rather than an on/off switch,” Cooper said. “Over the past weeks and months, even as we’ve slowly turned the dimmer switch up and eased restrictions, we’ve seen community spread of the virus increase in North Carolina.”

Daily case counts have gone up.

Since May 19, the number of people hospitalized has increased 56%, from being in the more than 500 to more than 900 in just a little over a month.

Cooper said Dr. Anthony Fauci testified before Congress Tuesday.

Fauci said that North Carolina could see an “insidious increase in community spread, which will be much more difficult to contain as the community spread amplifies itself.”

Read Executive Order No. 147 that implements Cooper’s announcement.

Cooper and Cohen are evaluating a combination of data from the following categories that shows the indicators moving in the wrong direction, causing officials to implement Wednesday’s pause in Phase 2.

Trajectory in COVID-Like Illness (CLI) Surveillance Over 14 Days

  • North Carolina’s syndromic surveillance trend for COVID-like illness is increasing.

Trajectory of Lab-Confirmed Cases Over 14 Days

  • North Carolina’s trajectory of lab-confirmed cases starting to level, but is still increasing.

Trajectory in Percent of Tests Returning Positive Over 14 Days

  • North Carolina’s trajectory in percent of tests returning positive remains elevated.

Trajectory in Hospitalizations Over 14 Days

  • North Carolina’s trajectory of hospitalizations are increasing, though we have capacity in our healthcare system.

In addition to these metrics, the state continues building capacity to be able to adequately respond to an increase in virus spread. These areas include:

Laboratory Testing

  • North Carolina is averaging more than 17,000 tests a day for the past week and there are more than 500 sites listed on online plus additional pop-up sites.
  • North Carolina labs and labs around the country are seeing supply shortages for laboratory chemicals needed to process tests.

Tracing Capability

  • There are over 1,500 full-time and part-time staff supporting contact tracing efforts at the local health department level, including the 309 Carolina Community Tracing Collaborative contact tracers. These new hires reflect the diversity of the communities they serve, and 44% are bilingual.

Personal Protective Equipment

  • Our personal protective equipment (PPE) supplies are stable.

N.C. Health Care Facilities Association statement:

“Nursing homes care for our state’s most vulnerable citizens, so we support precautions that will better protect our residents from COVID-19. That includes wearing masks.

“Research shows that the leading indicator of whether COVID-19 impacts a facility is the prevalence of the virus in the surrounding community.

“‘We are eager to begin welcoming visitors back into our nursing homes. But we know that before that can safely happen, we must slow the spread of the virus in our communities. Wearing a mask will help make that possible,‘ Adam Sholar President and CEO NC Health Care Facilities Association.”

N.C. Bar and Tavern Association statement:

“The governor’s decision is effectively signing a death warrant for 1,063 bars across North Carolina while offering zero relief to the small-business owners or their employees,”

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