RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Gov. Roy Cooper is asking for state government agencies and private businesses to have unvaccinated workers wear a mask and be tested for COVID-19 as the delta variant rages in North Carolina.
Though COVID-19 cases are rising quickly, he did not issue a statewide mandate for people to wear masks.
“Don’t wait until we run out of hospital beds. Don’t wait until skyrocketing numbers threaten to shut businesses or cancel sports. Don’t wait until you infect somebody you love,” Cooper said while pleading for unvaccinated people to get the shot.
A new executive order from Cooper directs state government cabinet agencies to verify whether their employees are vaccinated. Unvaccinated employees will be tested at least once a week and be required to wear a mask.
Unvaccinated people are driving the resurgence, Cooper said. North Carolina reported the most new cases in a single day on Thursday since late February.
“We are strongly urging other state government agencies and private businesses to, at a minimum, do the same. Many businesses are going a step further and requiring their employees to get vaccinated, and I applaud that,” Cooper said.
Cooper’s order applies to Cabinet-level agencies, which he said includes about 50,000 state employees. The requirement takes effect on Sept. 1. Employees in agencies overseen by other members of the Council of State (e.g. Auditor, Treasurer, Department of Public Instruction), are not subject to the order and instead would have to follow the rules set out by the leaders of those agencies.
In a change from last week, state health officials are now calling on schools to require masks for all students and adults regardless of vaccination status, in line with the latest CDC guidance.
Some school districts, including Johnston County on Thursday night, have already decided to make them optional. Cooper urged them to reconsider.
“Look at where the numbers are in your county. And, think about the danger that students could face.”
Cooper used words such as “alarming” to describe the current state of the pandemic. While he wants people to follow the CDC guidance, which even calls for fully vaccinated people to wear masks in public indoor settings in more than 80 percent of the state’s counties, he is not requiring that himself.
“The landscape has changed. Back when we were doing all of the statewide restrictions and mandating, we really did not have vaccines in place. Now vaccines are everywhere,” he said.
If you are not vaccinated, do not be around those who are vaccinated, Dr. Mandy Cohen with the state health department said.
“People who are unvaccinated make up most all of our cases where people are getting sick and hospitalized. The delta variant of COVID is even more contagious to those who are not vaccinated. It doesn’t matter your age or race. If you are not vaccinated, you are at great risk,” Cooper said.
The governor said don’t wait to get vaccinated.
“This vaccine could save your life,” Cooper said.