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North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper arrives for a press briefing on the COVID-19 virus at the Emergency Operations Center on Thursday, June 18, 2020 in Raleigh, N.C.

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said the state will not enter Phase 3 of the reopening plan, as cases of coronavirus (COVID-19) and hospitalizations are still on the rise. NC Gov. Cooper also said masks will be required statewide, starting Friday at 5 p.m. Phase 2 will be extended for at least another three weeks, through July 17. (Read the Executive Order here.)

“North Carolina is relying on the data and the science to lift restrictions responsibly, and right now our increasing numbers show we need to hit the pause button while we work to stabilize our trends,” Gov. Cooper said. “We need to all work together so we can protect our families and neighbors, restore our economy, and get people back to work and our children back to school.”

Face masks will now be required indoors and outdoors when in public, with some exceptions.

“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. “There are exceptions including people 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.”

The Executive Order says that the “honor system” will be used when explaining why a face covering can’t be worn.

“Under this Executive Order, all North Carolinians will be on the honor system about whether or not there is a reason why they cannot wear a Face Covering,” the order reads. “Everyone in this state is asked to tell the truth and-if they are healthy and able to wear a mask-to wear a Face Covering so that they do not put other people at risk of serious illness and death.”

In response to a question about enforcement of the mask order, Gov. Cooper said that businesses can be cited for allowing customers or employees to go without masks. Customers can also be cited for trespassing to help protect a business that is requiring the face masks.

“The numbers we see are a stark warning, and I’m concerned. As we have watched and studied and dissected these numbers in recent weeks, that concern has grown. Since the beginning of this pandemic, I’ve been clear that data and science would lead the way.”

Gov. Cooper said people could do things like go for walks and stay socially distanced without masks, but that entering businesses and other public places would require them. He also said that by July 17, the state hopes to be able to ease restrictions on “playgrounds, museums and gyms.”

“Daily case counts have gone up. The percent of tests returning positive has stayed high,” Gov. Cooper said. “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.”

NCDHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen said the state is seeing increases in nearly every metric the state is measuring since the state entered Phase 2 of the reopening plan. In particular, Cohen pointed out the percent of tests that come back positive are measuring around 10 percent, and not near the 5 percent mark the state is hoping for.

“North Carolina has been careful in lifting COVID restrictions,” Gov. Cooper said. “And it’s 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.”

“We have the power to get these trends going in the right direction,” Cohen said. “If each of us commits to (wearing masks) we can get these numbers headed in the right direction.”

The Executive Order defines face coverings as follows:

“Face Covering” means a covering of the nose and mouth that is secured to the head with ties, straps, or loops over the ears or is simply wrapped around the lower face. A Face Covering can be made of a variety of synthetic and natural fabrics, including cotton, silk, or linen. Ideally, a Face Covering has two (2) or more layers. A Face Covering may be factory-made, sewn by hand, or can be improvised from household items such as scarfs, bandanas, t-shirts, sweatshirts, or towels. These Face Coverings are not intended for use by healthcare providers in the care of patients.
“Surgical Mask” means American Society for Testing and Materials (“ASTM”) Level 1, 2, or 3 approved procedural and surgical masks. An N95 respirator approved by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (“NIOSH”) ( or a respirator from another country allowed by the Occupational Safety & Health Administration, the Food & Drug Administration, or the CDC) is not recommended for general public use or use in public settings, as it should be reserved for healthcare providers and other medical first responders in a health care setting. However, ifworn, these respirators would meet both the Face Covering and Surgical Mask requirements of this Executive Order. A face shield that covers the nose and mouth also meets the Face Covering requirements of this Executive Order.

GALLERY: Coronavirus In North Carolina

 

Brandon Plotnick is a former sports journalist, now living in the digital space with interests all over the musical and pop culture map.