North Carolina will pause at Phase Three of the COVID-19 recovery, and indoor gatherings are now limited to 10 people, Gov. Roy Cooper announced this afternoon.
The governor’s executive order was set to expire Friday. The change does not affect businesses whose capacities were set in an early order.
Cooper and Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen also encouraged families to look at other options for Thanksgiving, including “virtual” gatherings.
“We are all suffering, but there is light at the end of the tunnel,” Cooper said, referring to the announcement Monday of a possible vaccine. “By next Thanksgiving, or even sooner, we can be past this.”
Cooper noted that North Carolina has not experienced the spikes seen in other states, but the seven percent infection rate is still “too high”. The state’s goal is to maintain a five percent or lower rate of new COVID-19 cases.
Masks and social distancing were repeatedly emphasized by the governor and secretary.
“If you have to travel,” Cohen said, “get a test three or four days before you leave. If you test positive, stay home and isolate. If you test negative, that’s just for that moment in time. It’s not a free pass. You still need to wear a mask.”
Cohen and Cooper dodged a question from the media on how the tightened restrictions will be enforced.
The state has seen 297,442 cases since March, with more than 2,000 new cases in the past two days. Deaths are up to 4,660, Cooper said.
“We are warning people that social and family gatherings are where we have seen the outbreaks,” Cooper said. “Part of lowering the number of people to ten for indoor gatherings is to send the message that many of our infections come from these types of gatherings. You need to wear a mask and social distance if you are having one.”
Cooper also announced that full-service restaurants are now eligible for assistance through the Mortgage, Utility and Rent Relief Program (MURR) administered by the NC Department of Commerce.
These businesses may apply for up to four months of rent or mortgage interest capped at $20,000 per location for up to two locations. Businesses can learn more and apply by visitingwww.nccommerce.com/murr.