Face masks now mandatory as numbers rise

By Catharin Shepard • Staff writer • Wearing a face covering in public is now mandatory in North Carolina.

Citing rising numbers of hospitalizations and continued high numbers of newly identified cases of COVID-19, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper issued an executive order Wednesday requiring people to wear a face covering in public.

The order takes effect Friday, June 26 at 5 p.m. [Read Executive Order 147 Here]

Cooper called the increasing number of cases “a stark warning.”

“We don’t want to go backward. We want to stabilize our numbers so we can continue to ease restrictions and most importantly, get our children back in schools,” Cooper said in a live-streamed press conference.

The governor also announced a “pause” in the state’s reopening. He extended the second phase of the state’s three-phase reopening plan by three weeks.

The “safer at home” phase will continue until at least July 17. At that time officials will take another look at the data and could consider allowing gyms and playgrounds to reopen.

“Our cautious approach is like a dimmer switch rather than an on-off switch,” Cooper said.

Studies are showing “overwhelming evidence” that wearing face coverings can help stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus, Cooper said.

“We want to make our decisions based on the data,” he said.

Exceptions to the mandate

There are some exceptions to the mandate. The executive order does not require face coverings for – and a face covering does not need to be worn by – a worker, customer, or patron who:

1. Should not wear a Face Covering due to any medical or behavioral condition or disability (including, but not limited to, any person who has trouble breathing, or is unconscious or incapacitated, or is otherwise unable to put on or remove the face covering without assistance);

2. Is under eleven ( 11) years of age;

3. Is actively eating or drinking;

4. Is strenuously exercising;

5. Is seeking to communicate with someone who is hearing-impaired in a way that requires the mouth to be visible;

6. Is giving a speech for a broadcast or to an audience;

7. Is working at home or is in a personal vehicle;

8. Is temporarily removing his or her Face Covering to secure government or medical services or for identification purposes;

9. Would be at risk from wearing a Face Covering at work, as determined by local, state, or federal regulations or workplace safety guidelines;

10. Has found that his or her Face Covering is impeding visibility to operate equipment or a vehicle; or

11. Is a child whose parent, guardian, or responsible person has been unable to place the Face Covering safely on the child’s face.

Numbers show “elevated” trends

North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen presented an update on where things stand in the state. Last week saw the number of new COVID-19 cases start to level out somewhat, but overall the trend has been “elevated” throughout the phase two reopening, Cohen said.

Epidemiologists in the state saw today the second-highest number of newly identified cases since the start of the pandemic, with over 1,700 positive tests. The number of new cases is not just due to more testing, but is because the virus is “still very prevalent” in North Carolina, Cohen said.

Besides the daily case counts going up, the percentage of positive tests out of all COVID-19 tests has also gone up. Hospitalizations have risen in just over a month’s time from about 500 people statewide hospitalized, to over 900 hospitalized as of Wednesday.

“These concerning trends remind us that if left unchecked, the virus will continue to spread,” Cohen said.

See more on how Hoke is faring, here: http://www.hokenews.com/index.php/2020/06/24/virus-death-toll-in-hoke-is-3/

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