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Masks required in public, NC to remain in Phase II

Citing a continued increase in cases of COVID-19, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper announced Wednesday that North Carolinians will now be required to wear face masks in public, and that the state will remain in Phase II of reopening until at least July 17.

“People must wear face coverings when in public places, indoors or outdoors, where physical distancing of six feet from other people who aren’t in the same household or residence isn’t possible,” Cooper said. “They will be required for all employees and customers of retail businesses and restaurants as well as workers in manufacturing, construction, meat processing and agriculture settings.”

A new executive order outlines the requirements for wearing masks and the extension of Phase II. While law enforcement personnel are not authorized to enforce criminal penalties for failing to wear a mask, restaurants and other businesses are allowed to deny entry to employees or customers who refuse to wear a mask. If the person enters the establishment after being turned away, law enforcement may enforce trespassing laws.

Exceptions are included for people with medical conditions, children under age 11, people who are at home or people who are exercising outside while practicing social distancing.

According to N.C. Department of Health and Human Services Director Mandy Cohen, the state is seeing more COVID-like symptomatic cases and an increased trajectory of confirmed cases. Cohen said the increase was not solely the result of increased testing, as the trajectory of positive tests as a percentage of total testing remains elevated. Hospitalizations are also increasing, according to Cohen.

Although the state’s capacity for testing, contact tracing and its supply of personal protective equipment have all improved in recent months, Cohen said testing facilities are now facing shortages of some testing materials, including reagents used in the process.

With the extension of phase II, prohibitions on mass gatherings of 10 or more people inside, or 25 of more people outside, remain in place. Businesses operating with reduced capacities in Phase II will be required to continue doing so. Businesses such as gyms, bars and entertainment venues will remain closed.