Gov. Cooper Recommends Mask-wearing for Everyone in High-risk Areas

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Governor Roy Cooper and North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy K. Cohen, M.D. recently announced that state government would begin verifying vaccination status of its workers. Employees not vaccinated are required to wear a mask and be tested at least once a week.

The announcement comes as North Carolina’s latest upswing in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations is driven by unvaccinated North Carolinians.

“Until more people get the vaccine, we will continue living with the very real threat of serious disease, and we will continue to see more dangerous and contagious variants like Delta,” said Governor Cooper.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued new mask guidance this week based on levels of transmission in communities. The new maps designate counties as areas of low (blue), moderate (yellow), substantial (orange) or high (red) transmission. Moving forward, everyone in a red or orange county in North Carolina, including those who have been vaccinated, should wear a mask in public indoor settings.

Additionally, in accordance with the updated CDC guidance, all K-12 schools should require universal masking, regardless of vaccination status. NCDHHS is updating its guidance for schools to align with this recommendation.

NCDHHS updated guidance encourages private sector businesses to, at a minimum, verify vaccination status for their workers as well. The requirement for state government employees applies to cabinet agencies and is included in Executive Order 224.

“There is only one way out of this pandemic and that is vaccination. Our trends are accelerating at an alarmingly fast rate and the highest rates of viral spread are happening in areas with low vaccination rates and among those who are not fully vaccinated,” said Secretary Cohen. “If you are already vaccinated, I call on you to urge your unvaccinated family and friends to get their shot now. It is not an understatement to say that you will save lives by doing so.”

The NCDHHS updated guidance reminds unvaccinated people that they need to continue practicing the three Ws – wear a mask in all indoor public settings, wait six feet apart in all public settings and wash hands often. In addition, unvaccinated people should not gather with other unvaccinated people who do not live with them. If they do, they should stay outside and keep 6 feet of distance. In addition, unvaccinated people should not travel.

To date, North Carolina has administered nearly 9.8 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, with 57 percent of the adult population fully vaccinated. 61 percent of adults have received at least one dose of the vaccine, including 86 percent of North Carolinians 65 and over.

Learn more about the state’s vaccine distribution at myspot.nc.gov (English) or Vacunate.nc.gov (Spanish). Details on the Your Shot at $1 Million Summer Cash Drawing can be found at covid19.ncdhhs.gov/summervaxcash. Use NCDHHS’ online tool Find a Vaccine Location to find a nearby vaccine site. Call the state’s COVID-19 vaccine hotline at 888-675-4567.