North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper arrives for a press briefing on the COVID-19 virus at the Emergency Operations Center on Wednesday, June 24, 2020 in Raleigh, N.C. (Robert Willett/The News & Observer via AP)

North Carolina’s governor announced Wednesday that people across the state must wear masks or other face coverings in public as he extended other business restrictions by three weeks amid a surge in cases of COVID-19.

Gov. Roy Cooper issued an executive order requiring people to 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 executive branch employees. The order takes effect on Friday.

Violations of Cooper’s executive orders are generally punishable as a 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 notes that people who refuse to wear a mask and won't leave a business can be penalized under trespassing laws. The mask order exempts those with certain health conditions, young children and people strenuously exercising, among other situations.

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

Cooper, a Democrat, also extended restrictions that limit capacity at retailers, restaurants and public gatherings until July 17. Businesses including bars, movie theaters and gyms must also remain closed. The rules are part of Cooper's Phase 2 of reopening, which began last month.

A legislative effort led by Republican lawmakers to allow gyms and bars to reopen failed on Wednesday when House leaders couldn't muster enough votes to override Cooper's veto of the measure to scale back the governor's business restrictions.

Cooper's executive 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.

“The numbers we see are a stark warning, and we must pay attention,” Cooper said.

Cooper said the state currently has sufficient hospital capacity, but that could quickly change if virus trends don’t improve. Statewide, health officials say approximately 20% of both inpatient beds and intensive care beds remain available, based on reports from the vast majority of hospitals.

“Doctors and health care experts have warned that hospital capacity can be overwhelmed in the blink of an eye," Cooper said. "And once we see that capacity is gone, it can be too late to reverse the tide.”

Republicans including Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, Cooper's opponent in the November governor's race, have urged him to allow businesses to reopen more quickly.

Wednesday's executive order was criticized by Republican state Senate leader Phil Berger, who noted that Cooper walked among demonstrators without a mask during a protest earlier this month against racial injustice outside the executive mansion. Cooper later announced he had tested negative for the virus after the brief walk through the crowd.

“The inconsistencies and hypocrisy continue to eat away at the trust in and credibility of this administration,” Berger said.

(13) comments


Good luck enforcing this nonsense,  Cooper.

(Edited by staff.)


Good luck with that one.


Comrade Cooper at it again

David Collins

Did anyone notice that cooper has required businesses to enforce this edict ? Sort of deputizing them under fear of being charged and cited . Probably fined as well . Do not like saying this but reminds me of the brown shirts of Nazi Germany . Might be a bit of an extreme analogy but maybe not . You decide .


"Extreme?" No, I don't believe it is; I have used the Brown Shirts analogy often enough myself - though usually as a descriptor of Trump's supporters at his rallies.


I won't wear a face mask. Governor Cooper didn't when he marched with protestors. Politics!

armed citizen

More government overreach. I wonder what freedom will be stripped away on July 17th. Run Forrest run! November 3rd will be here soon.


It's good to see thoughtful, rational leadership in Raleigh. Masking and social distancing will go a long way in stemming the spread of COVID. Good on yer, Guv'ner!


Masks should have been required months ago. Unless it is enforced, people still will not wear them. Today I was in a store and 10 people were in there without masks.


Your concern is understandable, but I believe it is misplaced. The real crisis, the destruction of statues, is under control, thanks to an aggressive deployment of National Guard troops in DC. We can only hope they don't clash with any Episcopal priests handing out bottles of water and snacks in front of their churches.

R Peters

I won't wear a mask because I saw a dumb person not wearing a mask.


U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis on Monday evening urged North Carolinians to wear masks to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 disease, to help the economy reopen and to protect businesses from COVID-related lawsuits. “Everyone needs to know: You can help reduce the spread by 80% and we can beat the virus if you just wear something over your nose and mouth when you go out,” Tillis, a Republican, told listeners during a telephonic and online town hall meeting Monday evening.


I'm pretty dumb about not wearing a mask. Can someone please tell me why there is such venomous opposition to wearing a mask if you are medically compromised with breathing problems? Do compromised people "have" to go out and eat with potential carriers? It really seems like defiance in this case is counter productive. I'm willing to listen if you have a reasonable explanation.

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