NC remains in Phase 3 and expands mask mandate


Veronica Wernicke, News Editor

While the U.S. continues to tackle and brace the coronavirus (COVID-19) as the colder winter months are nearing, North Carolina will remain in the “Safer at Home” Phase 3. On Nov. 23, North Carolina’s Governor Roy Cooper announced the extension of Phase 3, which the state initially transitioned to back on Oct. 2. 

The extended Phase 3 will begin on Nov. 25 at 5 p.m. and remain in effect until Dec. 11 at 5 p.m. while North Carolina officials continue to assess the threat of the virus. 

Cooper also announced an expansion and shift of the mask mandate. Under this new order face masks are now required to be worn at all times in indoor settings around people outside of your household, even when social distancing is possible.

“Masks [are also] required in indoor gyms and fitness facilities at all times, even when exercising, in restaurants at all times when not actively eating or drinking and when using public transportation or when using ride-share services,” per a graphic from the New Hanover County Government Facebook page

This executive order also requires small businesses with more than 15,000 square feet of interior space to have a worker outside of each public entrance enforcing the face mask and maximum occupancy requirements. 

Law enforcement is also now able to enforce the mask mandate against individuals. Before this executive order, law enforcement was only able to enforce the mandate against businesses or organizations that failed to.

Lastly, the gathering limit remains at 10 for indoor and 50 for outdoor settings, children under five and people with a behavioral condition or disability are not required to wear a mask and alcohol sales are prohibited between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. all remain in effect from the previous executive order. 

“The Phase 3 executive order remains in effect, including all reduced capacity limits, sanitation standards and other restrictions,” per the executive order’s FAQ document.

This executive order comes as the United States is approaching the colder months where experts say the virus could get worse and infect more people, especially as people are tempted to gather for the upcoming holidays. 

North Carolina has also been experiencing a surge in cases, with the state reporting more and more counties as red critical community spread counties where the rate of cases is “>200/100,000 new cases in 14 days with at least 42 cases in 14 days.”  

“The coming weeks will be a true test of our resolve to do what it takes to keep people from getting sick, to save lives, and to make sure that if you need hospital care whether it’s for a heart attack or a car accident or COVID-19, you can get it,” said North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) Secretary Mandy K. Cohen, M.D.

To see more information regarding the extension of Phase 3 and the mask mandate expansion, you visit the FAQ document for this executive order.