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CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA - APRIL 27: The practice facility of the Charlotte Hornets is seen during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on April 27, 2020 in Charlotte, North Carolina. The NBA recently announced the possible re-opening of team practice facilities as early as May 1. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said the state will not enter Phase 3 of the reopening plan, as cases of coronavirus (COVID-19) and hospitalizations are still on the rise. NC Gov. Cooper also said masks will be required statewide. Phase 2 will be extended for at least another three weeks, through July 17.

“They will be required for all employees and customers of retail businesses and restaurants as well as workers in manufacturing, construction, meat processing, and agriculture settings,” Cooper said. “There are exceptions including people with medical conditions and children under 11, people who are at home and people who are walking or otherwise exercising outside when not within six feet of others.”

In response to a question about enforcement of the mask order, Gov. Cooper said that businesses can be cited for allowing customers or employees to go without masks. Customers can also be cited for trespassing to help protect a business that is requiring the face masks.

“The numbers we see are a stark warning, and I’m concerned. As we have watched and studied and dissected these numbers in recent weeks, that concern has grown. Since the beginning of this pandemic, I’ve been clear that data and science would lead the way.” Gov. Cooper said people could do things like go for walks and stay socially distanced without masks, but that entering businesses and other public places would require them.

“Daily case counts have gone up. The percent of tests returning positive has stayed high,” Gov. Cooper said. “Since May 19, the number of people hospitalized has increased 56 percent, from being in the 500s to now over 900 in just a little over a month.”

NCDHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen said the state is seeing increases in nearly every metric the state is measuring since the state entered Phase 2 of the reopening plan. In particular, Cohen pointed out the percent of tests that come back positive are measuring around 10 percent, and not near the 5 percent mark the state is hoping for.

“North Carolina has been careful in lifting COVID restrictions,” Gov. Cooper said. “And it’s because public health experts warn that removing restrictions too fast or all at once can cause a dangerous spike in the virus that would overwhelm our medical system.”

“We have the power to get these trends going in the right direction,” Cohen said. “If each of us commits to (wearing masks) we can get these numbers headed in the right direction.” More to come on this breaking story.

COVID-19 IN NORTH CAROLINA

Alexis Zarycki is your average girl with the hopes of leaving an everlasting impact on the world. Follow her on Instagram @official_lexpaige