Even Blackbeard, in the Blackbeard’s Lodge lobby, is doing his part and wearing a face covering. Photo: C. Leinbach

RALEIGH—Gov. Roy Cooper today issued additional COVID-19 safety measures to tighten mask requirements and enforcement as cases continue to rise rapidly in North Carolina and across the country.

Executive Order No. 180, extending Phase 3 restrictions, goes into effect on Wednesday, Nov. 25, and runs through Friday, Dec. 11.

“I have a stark warning for North Carolinians today: We are in danger,” Cooper said during a 2 p.m. briefing. “This is a pivotal moment in our fight against the coronavirus. Our actions now will determine the fate of many.”

Cooper said the COVID-19 trends are going up. In addition to extending Phase 3 capacity limits and safety requirements, the order tightens the existing statewide mask requirement –- making it clear that everyone needs to wear a mask whenever they are with someone who is not from the same household.

The order also adds the mask requirement to several additional settings including any public indoor space even when maintaining six feet of distance; gyms even when exercising; all schools public and private; and all public or private transportation when travelling with people outside of the household.

The order also requires large retail businesses with more than 15,000 square feet to have an employee stationed near entrances ensuring mask wearing and implementing occupancy limits for patrons who enter.

Dr. Mandy Cohen, Secretary of North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, updated North Carolina’s COVID-19 County Alert System map due to the rapid rise in cases and hospitalization over the past week.

Since introducing the system last week, 10 more counties have moved into the red category indicating critical community spread. There are now 20 red counties, doubled since last week, she said, and 42 orange counties. Read about the county alert system here.

“The coming weeks will be a true test of our resolve to do what it takes to keep people from getting sick, to save lives, and to make sure that if you need hospital care whether it’s for a heart attack or a car accident or COVID-19, you can get it,” said NCDHHS Secretary Mandy K. Cohen, M.D. “I don’t want to see the bottom fall out and more people in the hospital.”

Greensboro Mayor Nancy Vaughan spoke at today’s press conference to explain what the city of Greensboro is doing to step up enforcement of existing, strong statewide safety rules. State officials have encouraged local governments to take action to require compliance and help lower COVID-19 numbers.

Vaughan said she does not want to see another business shutdown.

“But we must work together to change the trajectory of our numbers,” she said. “We must reduce the positivity rate. Let’s do our part to keep business in business.”

Face Coverings are a low-cost and highly effective way of mitigating the spread of COVID-19, and, if adopted widely by all North Carolinians, may help to prevent further re-closures of the state’s businesses and operations.

Citing several studies, the executive order lists enhanced face covering requirements as follows:

Face coverings must be worn in all indoor public settings where other individuals may be present, regardless of one’s perceived ability to maintain physical distance of at least six feet;

Businesses in North Carolina must do their part to “flatten the curve” of COVID-19 by ensuring their employees and guests wear face coverings at all times while on their premises, and by denying entry to those guests who do not wear face coverings, unless an exception to the requirement applies;

Face coverings should continue to be worn outdoors when it is not possible to consistently be physically distant, by at least six feet, from non-household members;

Mass gathering limits remain at 10 people indoors and 50 people outdoors.

Read Executive Order 180.

Read a Frequently Asked Questions document about the Order. 

See the slides from today’s briefing.

One of several slides showing the COVID-19 trajectory in North Carolina.
Hyde County’s COVID numbers as of 4 p.m. Nov. 23. The state still lists Hyde as “yellow,” which means ‘substantial’ COVID cases.
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