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Governor requires masks, ‘pauses’ N.C. in Phase 2
Wednesday, 01 July 2020 22:55

From Staff Reports 

RALEIGH — North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper — during a June 24 press briefing — issued an executive order to keep the state in Phase 2 for another three weeks, while making face coverings mandatory in public.

 “The order that moved the state into Phase 2 on May 22 was scheduled to expire on Friday (June 26),” the Raleigh News & Observer reported afterward. “It has been extended until July 17. The mask requirement takes effect Friday (June 26) at 5 p.m.”

Cooper noted that his action essentially “pauses” the state from moving into Phase 3, meaning businesses that still were closed during Phase 2 — gyms, fitness centers and bars — will remain idle.

Cooper said the state’s numbers and metrics on cases and hospitalizations and the state’s trends resulting from COVID-19 clearly indicate the state should not move forward with easing further restrictions. 

“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.”

Further, the governor said, “We know (sometime) next week (June 28-July 4) we’ve got another important announcement about schools and how we’ll open those up... We are hopeful that July 17 we can move even further on restrictions and we can have our kids in school this fall.”

Exceptions to the mask requirement are children under 11, those with certain medical conditions and individuals exercising outdoors away from others.

“I urge everyone to be a leader in wearing face coverings,” Cooper said. “I encourage businesses to be strong in enforcing it. Slowing the spread helps our economy, and these face coverings do that.”

The Raleigh newspaper reported that “the moves come as the state continues to fail at hitting key benchmarks in its effort to slow the spread and serious cases of COVID-19.”

“North Carolina has been careful in lifting COVID restrictions,” 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.

“Our cautious approach is like a dimmer switch, rather than an on/off switch. Over the past weeks and months, even as we’ve slowly turned the dimmer switch up and eased restrictions, we’ve seen community spread of the virus increase in North Carolina.”

The Raleigh newspaper noted that “Cooper previously said there could be a statewide mask mandate and that mask mandates should have some type of enforcement. Raleigh, Orange County and Durham already require the use of masks or face coverings. Now that requirement is statewide.”

“We’re adding this new requirement because we don’t want to go backward,” Cooper said. “We want to stabilize our numbers so we can continue to safely ease restrictions, and most importantly, get our children back in school.

“On Wednesday (June 24), the state reached its second-highest reported daily number of patients hospitalized at 906. The single-day high of 915 was established Tuesday (June 23).

“To further relax social restrictions, state health officials want to see either a downward trend, or in some cases a sustained leveling in the daily trends in the number of lab-confirmed cases, hospitalizations, percent of positive tests and people presenting in emergency departments with COVID-like symptoms,” the News & Observer reported.

Meanwhile, Dr. Mandy Cohen, secretary of the state’s Department of Health and Human Services, showed data during the news briefing that she said shows that the coronavirus situation is, to say the least, not improving in North Carolina.

“I know North Carolinians are strong, resilient and care deeply about our communities,” she said. “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.

“According to medical experts, growing evidence shows that cloth face coverings, when worn consistently, can decrease the spread of COVID-19, especially among people who are not showing symptoms of the virus. Until now, face coverings had been strongly recommended,” Cohen said.

Under the executive order announced June 24 and becoming effective 5 p.m. June 26, “people in North Carolina must wear face coverings when in public places where physical distancing is not possible,” Asheville television station WLOS reported after the briefing.

“In addition, certain businesses must have employees and customers wear face coverings, including retail businesses, restaurants, personal care and grooming, employees of child care centers and camps, state government agencies under the governor’s cabinet, workers and riders of transportation and workers in construction/trades, manufacturing, agriculture, meat processing and health care and long-term care settings,” WLOS noted.

Dennis Taylor, a nurse and president of the North Carolina Nurses Association, said at the briefing, “Wearing a face covering is an easy thing to do that can make a huge impact for all of us. A major spike in cases would be catastrophic to the system, and without your cooperation, nurses and our fellow health care providers will have a harder time caring for sick patients for weeks and months to come.” 



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