Monday, June 24, 2024

Cooper tightens up mask mandate restrictions ahead of Thanksgiving [Free]

The state has announced increased mask restrictions ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday. (Port City Daily photo/Courtesy NCDHHS)
The state has announced increased mask restrictions ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday. (Port City Daily photo/Courtesy NCDHHS)

Update: This article has been corrected to state when the new restrictions apply; the new order takes effect Wednesday, not Friday, at 5 p.m.

N.C. Governor Roy Cooper has tightened up the state’s mask mandate ahead of Thanksgiving.

Executive Order 180 expands current mask requirements, extending the rule to essentially any time an individual is outside of their home and in the presence of a non-household contact.

Related: ‘Hit the front lines’: Holidays and vaccine will mark next chapter of local fight against pandemic

“That means wearing a mask at home when you have friends or family over to visit,” Cooper said at a Monday press conference. “It means a mask at work, at the gym, at the store, at school.”

The new rule takes effect Wednesday at 5 p.m. and will remain in place through Dec. 11. It applies to “all indoor settings” regardless of whether a six-foot distance is being maintained between non-household contacts. It also applies while customers are seated at restaurants and not actively eating or drinking and in indoor gyms while people are exercising.

Under the previous mask mandate, first put in place in June, the order was only enforceable by citing non-compliant businesses. Now, law enforcement and public health officials may issue violations against non-compliant individuals — not just businesses.

Retailers with buildings that exceed 15,000 square feet must now keep an employee stationed near entrances to ensure mask-wearing among customers and maintain occupancy limits; the 50% restaurant and retail occupancy limit remains in place. The reduced 10-person mass gathering limit is also still in effect.

Children under five years old are not required to wear a mask. Mask-wearing is also not required if individuals are alone at their workplace or in an indoor or outdoor setting.

Cooper urged local law enforcement agencies and communities to step up enforcement against non-complying individuals and organizations. N.C. Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen encouraged the public to report violations to their local health department or law enforcement agencies.

“The purpose of today is to let people know we’re getting to a critical situation,” Cooper said. “We don’t want to go backward, but we will if it’s necessary.”

The increased restrictions come as Covid-19 trends continue to break records in North Carolina ahead of Thanksgiving. North Carolina logged its highest daily positive case count to date on Sunday, with 4,514 new cases. Hospitalizations peaked Monday, with 1,601 people hospitalized with 95% of hospitals reporting. Of the ICU beds reported, the state is at 76% ICU bed capacity, with 535 empty beds (1,196 are unreported).

State officials released the results of a county-by-county tracking system Monday — three weeks ahead of schedule. Initially, Cooper said the results would be released every four weeks, but state officials opted to issue a new report because of alarming trends. The number of counties of concern, designated as red on the state’s map, has doubled from 10 to 20.

Pender County has moved into the orange “substantial” risk category after initially being designated as yellow or “significant”; New Hanover and Brunswick County remain yellow.

Cohen said hospitals may soon begin looking to decrease elective procedures. Staffing capacity is an area of concern in many hotspot regions, Cohen said.


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