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North Carolina will remain in Phase 2, face coverings required statewide

By Jonathan Drew, Associated Press

North Carolina’s governor announced Wednesday that people across the state must wear masks or other face coverings in public when distancing is not possible to fight the spread of COVID-19. Other restrictions were extended by three more weeks, including the closure of fitness centers, movie theaters and bars.

Gov. Roy Cooper issued an executive order that people must wear face coverings in public when it’s not possible to maintain physical distance. The order also mandates face coverings for employees of businesses including retailers and restaurants, as well as state employees in the executive branch.

Violations of Cooper’s executive orders are generally punishable by misdemeanor, but Wednesday’s order directs law enforcement to issue citations to businesses or organizations that fail to enforce mask requirements, not individuals. The order also includes exemptions for health conditions, strenuous exercise and other situations.

Several other states including California and Washington have statewide mask requirements.

He also said Phase 2 restrictions limiting capacity at retailers, restaurants and public gatherings will remain in place for three more weeks.

The order comes as the state reports its second-highest one-day jump in virus cases at around 1,700. About 900 people are currently hospitalized, also representing the second-highest mark in that category.

Cooper said the state currently has sufficient hospital capacity, but that could quickly change if virus trends don’t improve.

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