Face coverings will be mandatory in most public places in North Carolina to help slow the spread of COVID-19 starting at 5 p.m. Friday under an order issued Wednesday by Gov. Roy Cooper.

Cooper also said he was extending phase two of “reopening” North Carolina until July 17 instead of letting phase two expire Friday as scheduled and moving to phase three.

Cooper’s full executive order can be found here.

Remaining in phase two means most mass gatherings are still limited to 10 people indoors and 25 outdoors, on-premises dining at restaurants is still limited to about 50% of capacity and movie theaters, museums, public playgrounds, indoor exercise facilities and gaming establishments must remain closed. Religious gatherings, funerals and weddings are exempt.

The House failed to override Cooper’s veto of a bill allowing bars and gyms to reopen on Wednesday, so they remain closed.

The extension of phase two raises questions about Wilkes County high school graduation plans. School Superintendent Mark Byrd said in mid-May that formal graduation observances would be delayed until the weekend of July 17-18, with a goal of having more traditional ceremonies. Byrd said plans were subject to Cooper’s orders and COVID-19 pandemic conditions. He said the decision resulted from survey responses of class of 2020 members

 

Face coverings (face masks)

North Carolina had its second highest daily COVID-19 hospitalization total Wednesday at 906 after a high of 915 Tuesday. The number of new lab-confirmed cases Wednesday was 1,721, the state’s second highest since the pandemic started. Eight percent of test results reported Wednesday were positive, down from Saturday’s high of 10%. The target goal is 5%.

"These numbers clearly tell us that we should not be moving forward with easing restrictions,” said Cooper.

He said face coverings need to be mandatory to turn these and other key factors around.

Cooper ordered that retail, personal care and tattoo businesses, as well as restaurants, have all of their workers wearing face coverings when they are or may be within six feet of others inside and outside buildings.

Retailers must have all customers in their establishments wearing facial coverings if they are or may be within six feet of others, unless customers claim any of several listed exceptions. Face coverings may be removed for certain grooming services.

Cooper’s order said citations “shall be written only to businesses or organizations that fail to enforce the requirement to wear face coverings,” plus law enforcement can’t criminally enforce this requirement against individual workers, customers or patrons.

It said operators of businesses and organizations are entitled to rely on statements of customers concerning whether they are excepted from wearing face coverings.

If a business or organization doesn’t allow a worker or customer on the premises because the person won’t wear a face covering, he/she can be charged with trespassing if the person refuses to leave.

The order said face coverings are not required for workers, customers or patrons who: 

• shouldn’t wear face coverings due to a medical or behavioral condition or disability;

• are under age 11;

• are actively eating or drinking; 

• are strenuously exercising; 

• are trying to communicate with someone who is hearing-impaired in a way that requires a visible mouth; 

• are giving a speech for a broadcast or to an audience; 

• is working at home or is in a personal vehicle; 

• is temporarily removing a face covering to secure government or medical services or for identification purposes;

• would be at risk from wearing a face covering at work, as determined by government regulations or workplace safety guidelines; 

• found that a face covering impedes visibility needed to operate equipment or a vehicle;

• is a child whose responsible person has been unable to place the face covering safely on the child's face.

The order defines a face covering as a means of covering the nose and mouth while secured to the head or wrapped around the head. It can he made of a variety of materials and ideally has two or more layers. A face covering can be factory-made, sewn by hand or improvised from household cloth materials. It can be surgical masks or N95 respirators.

The order also said face coverings are required for the following, all when people are or may be within six feet of others:

• for all adults and children 11 or older at child care facilities, day camps and overnight camps;

• for on-site employees of state agencies headed by members of the Governor's Cabinet. Public-facing operations of state government agencies must follow requirements for retail businesses in the order. “All other state and local government agencies are strongly encouraged to adopt similar policies….;”

• for all workers and riders on public or private transportation regulated by the state and people in airports, bus and train stations or stops. This doesn’t apply to people traveling alone with household members or friends in personal vehicles, but it does apply to ride-shares, cabs, vans and shuttles. “No customer will be removed from or denied entry to public transportation for failure to wear a face covering.”

• for manufacturing, construction and ag workers, including in meat or poultry processing plants;

• for workers in long term care facilities.

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