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NC updates mask guidance, Cooper issues order for state employees to verify vaccination

Gov. Cooper's COVID-19 update comes days after the CDC recommended everyone, even vaccinated people, wear masks again.

RALEIGH, N.C. — Gov. Roy Cooper issued a new Executive Order aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus statewide as numbers and hospitalizations continue to increase.

“Our trends have turned sharply in the wrong direction,” Cooper said while urging people to get vaccinated during a Thursday briefing. 

The new Executive Order directs state government cabinet agencies to verify whether their employees are vaccinated. As part of the order, unvaccinated employees will be tested at least once a week and required to wear a mask. Cooper is urging private businesses to do the same. 

State employees required to show vaccine proof include: 

      • Dept. of Health & Human Services
      • Dept. of Transportation
      • Dept. of Public Safety
      • Dept. of Commerce
      • Dept. of Revenue
      • Dept. of Administration
      • Dept. of Military & Veterans Affairs
      • Dept. of Environmental Quality
      • Dept. of Information Technology
      • Dept. of Natural and Cultural Resources

RELATED: New CDC mask guidance does not mean the vaccine doesn't work

"We are at a crossroads in this pandemic and we need the private sector to help us increase vaccine rates. Right now, being a good corporate citizen means getting your people vaccinated. Our economy depends on it," Cooper said.

The state said people who are unvaccinated make up almost all of the cases where people are getting sick and are being hospitalized.

“Unvaccinated people are driving this resurgence,” Cooper said. “The Delta variant of COVID is even more contagious to those who are not vaccinated. It doesn’t matter your age or race. If you are not vaccinated, you are at great risk,” Cooper said.

Cooper's latest COVID-19-related announcement comes following the CDC’s latest recommendation that everyone, even people who are fully vaccinated, wear masks again. 

Federal health officials said mask-wearing is advised for people living in areas where COVID-19 metrics are rising. 

"Everyone in a county with high rates of virus spread – including those who have been vaccinated – is encouraged to wear a mask in public indoor settings. For North Carolina, that is already 80% of our counties," Cooper said.

The CDC also released new guidelines for schools concerning masks. The state recommends schools follow those guidelines. 

"In accordance with the CDC, we recommend that all K-12 schools require masks for all their students and teachers," Cooper said.

Most recently, state health officials released back-to-school guidance on masks, recommending that students, particularly those who are still too young to get vaccinated, wear masks in the school setting. 

On Thursday, North Carolina recorded over 3,200 new COVID-19 cases - the most cases the state has seen in a single day since late February. Hospitalizations are increased for the 19th straight day (1,091). 

North Carolina state health officials have said time and time again, the way out of this pandemic, is through vaccines. 

“If you haven’t gotten vaccinated yet, I urge you to do so to protect yourself and your community,” NCDHHS Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen said. “Vaccinations are our way out of this pandemic.”

Vaccine rates are increasing, but only by a little bit each week. 

Vaccine doses week-by-week: 

  • First doses administered for the week of July 5: 37,338
  • First doses administered for the week of July 12: 42,024
  • First doses administered for the week of July 19: 59,486

Percent of North Carolina Population Vaccinated with at Least One Dose: 

  • Total population: 50%
  • 12+ Years of Age: 58%
  • 18+ Years of Age: 61%

To learn where you can get a COVID-19 shot, click here.