Governor tightens mask restrictions, extends Phase 3 as COVID-19 cases continue to rise

More than 20 counties are now in the critical spread red zone, including Perquimans and Bertie on Nov. 23, 2020. Dare, Camden and Pasquotank are in orange with substantial spread, while the rest of the area is now in yellow for significant spread. [image courtesy NCDHHS]

Gov. Roy Cooper on Monday 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.

The revised mask restrictions go into effect Wednesday and runs through Friday, Dec. 11.

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

In addition to extending Phase 3 capacity limits and safety requirements, the governor’s new 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 6 feet of distance; gyms even when exercising; all schools public and private; and all public or private transportation when traveling 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, including Perquimans and Bertie. Dare, Camden and Pasquotank are in orange with substantial spread, while the rest of the area is yellow for significant spread.

“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,” Cohen said.

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