Phase Three of North Carolina’s reopening has been postponed until July 17, Gov. Roy Cooper announced in a news conference today.
Cooper said the number of Covid-19 confirmed cases, deaths and hospitalizations have continued to increase since May 15, and the state will “pause and continue the safer-at-home” Phase Two requirements for the next three weeks.
Cooper also said face coverings will be required indoors and outdoors where 6-foot physical-distancing practices are not possible, and at businesses such as retailers, restaurants, meat-packing plants and more. Exceptions include people who have certain medical conditions and children under the age of 11, among others. The order takes effect at 5 p.m., Friday. Read the FAQ.
There is “overwhelming evidence” that wearing face masks is effective in slowing the spread of Covid-19, he said.
“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.”
Slowing the spread is also key to moving the economy forward, Cooper said as he called on legislators and business owners to encourage everyone to wear face coverings.
Eugene Woods, president and CEO of Atrium Health, echoed Cooper’s statement.
“As the leader of the state’s largest health system, I am pro-health and also 100% pro-business,” Woods said.
“In fact, the two are inextricably connected, and I’m very proud of the way business leaders and health experts are working together to keep our economy strong,” he said, citing the cooperation between health officials and NASCAR to safely host the Coca-Cola 600 in late May.
Woods also announced that a consortium of N.C. businesses, including Bank of America, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina, the Carolina Panthers, Honeywell, Lowe’s and Red Ventures, will donate 1 million masks, with an emphasis on getting them into the hands of underserved communities.
Cooper said the three-week delay is needed to give health experts the time to gather and analyze data and trends.
“We need to get these numbers leveled off,” he said.
Benchmarks and Progress
Numbers as of noon today:
Confirmed cases: 56,174
Tests completed: 791,285; percent positive: 8%
Dr. Mandy Cohen, secretary of the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services, said key Covid-19 indicators are moving in the wrong direction. Covid-like illnesses, hospitalizations and confirmed cases have continued to climb over the past 14 days, and the percent of tests returning positive remains elevated.
“If left unchecked, the virus will continue to spread,” she said.
Progress also has been made on these three fronts, she said:
- Covid-19 testing: N.C. is averaging more than 17,000 tests a day for the past week and there are more than 500 sites listed on online plus additional pop-up sites.
- Contract Tracers: The state now has over 1,500 full-time and part-time staff supporting contact tracing efforts.
- Personal Protective Equipment: The state now has a minimum 30-day supply of all protective equipment.
In urging all North Carolinians to comply with the mask-wearing requirement, Cohen cited infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci’s caution to lawmakers Tuesday that North Carolina risks an “insidious increase in community spread” unless state and local leaders take action to blunt the surge of coronavirus cases.
“Wearing a face covering in public settings is a simple but powerful action to slow the spread of this virus,” Cohen said. “The scientific evidence is compelling. However, face coverings only fully work when we all do it. If each person commits to wearing a face covering, we can stabilize our Covid-19 trends,” she said.
Starting Thursday, travelers from North Carolina will need to quarantine for 14 days in three states due to the spread of Covid-19, The Charlotte Observer reports.
New York, New Jersey and Connecticut will require everyone traveling from states with “significant community spread” of the virus to self-quarantine for two weeks upon arrival, governors of the three states announced Wednesday.