RALEIGH — At a COVID-19 press briefing today, Gov. Roy Cooper extended his Phase 3 order through 5 p.m. on Nov. 13. The end date for Phase 3 now falls on the day after the deadline for absentee ballots in the 2020 general election to be counted.
“As the number of applications climbs higher every day, it should make us remember that it’s more than a number. Every one of those applications represents a family having to make impossible choices between basic necessities during a global pandemic,” said Cooper.
The extension of Phase 3, which was supposed to expire on Oct. 23, is contained in Executive Order 170. New data sets have been added to the state’s COVID dashboard that includes county-level data and a new breakdown of those hospitalized by age, race, ethnicity and gender. A new report was also added to track clusters around the state.
Cooper also formally announced that a joint letter from the N.C. Dept. of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) and the Dept. of Public Safety was sent to certain counties.
The letter, signed by NCDHHS secretary Mandy Cohen and Public Safety Secretary Erik Hooks, encourages 36 counties to consider tighter COVID-19 restrictions than those currently in place and that penalities or fines be instituted for non-compliance.
Areas the letter suggests placing such fines on businesses that do not enforce the mask requirements and establishing lower mass gathering limits. Other suggestions included curtailing the sale of alcohol earlier than the current statewide 11 p.m. curfew, limiting restaurant service and closing “high risk venues such as bars and night spots.”
In a press release, NCDHHS described these suggestions as asking counties to “help slow the spread of the virus by promoting the 3 Ws and considering local actions to improve compliance with executive orders.” Lt. Gov. Dan Forest criticized the letter as “passing the buck” and that the governor is trying to use “local governments to punish business and individuals doing what they can to survive.”
Cooper has stated that his mask mandate has “leveled off” COVID cases in the state, yet the historical case data following the mandate shows repeated spikes and drops. The governor just last week announced that the state cases had hit a new record high.
When asked what citizens should do if they see someone who isn’t complying with the state’s mask mandate, Cooper said that they should “ask to speak to the manager.” He was also asked why Phase 3 was being extended instead of stepping back to Phase 2. Cooper replied that North Carolina was “pausing” and that enforcement would be “stepped up.”
“We are doing everything we can to slow the spread of this virus. This simple fact is we can’t do it on our own. Ignoring the virus doesn’t make it go away – just the opposite,” Cohen at today’s briefing. “As hard as this is, it will end. We will get through this. Let’s do it by looking out for one another. Whatever your reason, get behind the mask.”