RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper announced a new set of mask requirements Monday, calling them the state's "best weapon" against a "dire" spread of COVID-19.
He said the state now has 20 counties considered "red" under the state's coronavirus alert system — double what it was when the color-coded alerts were introduced last week. Alamance and Guilford counties have been added among the red counties.
"We are in danger," Cooper said.
He extended North Carolina's Phase 3 executive order to Dec. 11, one week after it was set to expire.
In his weekly pandemic briefing, Cooper said his new executive order will mean wearing a mask at home when friends are over as well as at work, the gym, stores and schools.
The order will also add to businesses' responsibility to ensure customers wear masks inside stores, keep 6 feet apart and follow occupancy limits, Cooper said. It can be enforced by local law enforcement and health departments.
Cooper said the order puts more responsibility on retailers for enforcing mask mandates in their stores.
"Very simply, you need to be wearing a mask when you are around anyone not in your household," said Dr. Mandy Cohen, N.C. Department of Health and Human Services secretary.
Cooper's briefing came shortly after the state Department of Health and Human Services reported 1,601 people hospitalized with COVID-19 in North Carolina, a new record.
DHHS also listed 2,419 new cases of coronavirus Monday, bringing the state's total to 339,194. On Saturday, the state surpassed 5,000 deaths, with almost 1,000 of those reported in the past month.