Gov. Roy Cooper issued a new executive order Monday tightening mask requirements as COVID-19 cases continue to rapidly rise in North Carolina and across the country.

The order takes effect on Wednesday and runs through Dec. 11. 

Under the order, a face covering will now be required in all indoor settings if there are non-household members present, regardless of the distance away. Under Cooper’s previous orders, face coverings were required indoors only if people couldn’t remain six feet away.

Under the new order, face coverings are still required in public outdoor settings if people can’t maintain six feet of social distance with non-household members.

In indoor gyms and fitness facilities, face coverings are now required when people are exercising. In restaurants, guests are now required to wear face coverings at their table unless they’re actively eating or drinking.

Retail business locations with more than 15,000 square feet of interior space must have a worker, at each entrance open to the public, who is responsible for enforcing the executive orders’ face covering and emergency maximum occupancy requirements.

On public transportation, customers may be denied entry if they refuse to wear a face covering.

The order’s face covering requirements are now enforceable by law enforcement against individuals. Under Cooper’s previous orders, face covering requirements were enforceable only against businesses or organizations that failed to enforce the requirement to wear face coverings. Law enforcement continues to have this authority under the new order.

To ensure that testing occurs to the maximum extent possible, the order announced Monday prohibits all local prohibitions and restrictions preventing a business or organization from advertising or providing COVID-19 testing.

As under previous executive orders, several exceptions to the face covering requirement apply. They aren’t required for people under age 5, people with a behavioral condition or disability and people actively eating or drinking.

The mass gathering limit remains at 10 for indoor settings and 50 for outdoor settings.

The Phase 3 executive order remains in effect, including all reduced capacity limits, sanitation standards, and other restrictions. It was extended through Dec. 11.

Late night alcohol sales are still prohibited from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m.

Greensboro Mayor Nancy Vaughan spoke at Monday’s press conference to discuss what the city of Greensboro is doing to step up enforcement of existing, strong statewide safety rules. State officials have encouraged local governments to take action to require compliance and help lower COVID-19 numbers.

"I have a stark warning for North Carolinians today: We are in danger," Cooper said. "This is a pivotal moment in our fight against the coronavirus. Our actions now will determine the fate of many."

Also on Monday, North Carolina’s COVID-19 County Alert System map was updated due to the rapid rise in cases and hospitalization over the past week. Ten more counties were moved into the red (critical community spread) category.

Wilkes was already among counties in the red. There are now 20 red counties and 42 orange counties. Read the update to see where each county stands and how the system was designed.

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