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Face coverings mandatory in public; pause placed on phase 3 of reopening North Carolina

Gov. Roy Cooper said people must wear face coverings when in public places whether indoors or outside.

GREENSBORO, N.C. — Gov. Roy Cooper announced Wednesday that face masks will be required for anyone in a public space whether inside or outdoors. He also said masks will be required for all employees and customers of retail businesses and restaurants. The order goes into effect Friday at 5 p.m. and expires July 17 at 5 p.m.

Exceptions to the mandate

Cooper gave exceptions to the face mask rule, which include:

  • children 10 years old and younger
  • people who are actively eating or drinking
  • people doing strenuous exercise
  • communication with hearing impaired in which mouth visibility is required
  • giving a speech or broadcast to an audience
  • working at home
  • driving/riding in personal vehicle
  • if mask impedes visibility to operate equipment or vehicle

Under the mandate, Copper's office said certain businesses must have employees and customers wear face coverings, including but not limited to: retail businesses, restaurants, personal care and grooming. 

Click here for the full list.

Who can enforce the mandate?

  • local law enforcement have the power to criminally enforce the order 
  • if someone (worker or customer) enters a business (or any place) and refuses to wear a mask, law enforcement can enforce trespassing laws

Cooper also announced North Carolina will remain in the Safer at Home Phase 2 for three more weeks.

“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,” 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.”

“I know North Carolinians are strong, resilient and care deeply about our communities. We pride ourselves on helping our neighbors. The best way we can do that now is by taking the simple action of wearing a face covering that covers your nose and mouth. If we each do our part, we can get back to the people and places we love,” said Dr. Mandy Cohen, NCDHHS Secretary.

Based on the metrics laid out in April by Cooper and Cohen, North Carolina is evaluating a combination of the data from the following categories that shows the indicators moving in the wrong direction, causing officials to implement today’s pause in phase 2, Cooper's office said.

Those metrics are:

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.

North Carolina reported more than 1,700 new COVID-19 coronavirus cases Wednesday. That number is 47 cases shy of the state's record daily increase set up on June 12.

Hospitalizations went down since Tuesday but remain above 900.

RELATED: Curve in Context | Surge in new COVID-19 cases ahead of North Carolina phase 3 reopening decision

The positive test rate averages around 9% over the last 14 days. That was the key factor Wednesday in having North Carolina and seven other states listed among restrictions in the New York tri-state area. Visitors from states where positive results from testing were an average of 10% or greater would be required to quarantine for two weeks upon arriving in New York, New Jersey, or Connecticut.

Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Dr. Anthony Fauci testified before Congress Tuesday and said that North Carolina could see an "insidious increase in community spread, which will be much more difficult to contain as community spread amplifies itself."

Cooper has faced pressure from Triad mayors and council members who were calling to make face masks mandatory in public.

The city of Greensboro made face coverings mandatory on Tuesday. Winston-Salem Mayor Allen Joines said he was prepared to make face-coverings mandatory for his city if Cooper didn’t make it a state mandate.

North Carolina has had a total of 56,174 cases and 1,271 deaths as of Wednesday.

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