NORTH CAROLINA — In a bid to curb the increasing transmission of coronavirus throughout the state, North Carolina is clamping down on indoor gatherings, reducing the limit from 25 to 10, Gov. Roy Cooper announced Tuesday.
The new limits through a new statewide executive order that also stalls the state in it's "Phase 3" reopening plan come as the state reports increasing numbers of coronavirus cases. Tuesday, the state reported 2,582 new COVID-19 cases, increasing the tally to 297,442 cases confirmed since March. Hospitalizations were at 1,230 — the highest reported since July — and deaths rose to 4,660.
"Our numbers are too high," Cooper said Tuesday during a news conference announcing the new executive order.
"This reduction in our indoor gathering limit aims to slow the spread and bring down our numbers. It also sends a serious signal to families, friends and neighbors across our state," he said.
The new executive order will be in effect from Friday, Nov. 13 through Friday, Dec. 4. The new limitations do not impact church or religious gatherings, but the principal still applies, Cooper said. Schools and universities will also not be affected by the order.
The governor said the main target for the new limitations are events where people tend to let their guard down, such as social community gatherings and family gatherings, which are sparking COVID-19 clusters around the state.
"This is to send a signal to these groups that this is a problem," Cooper said.
North Carolina is experiencing a new peak in cases, North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen said. "Overall, our cases are trending up and this is concerning as we head into the holidays."
As of Tuesday, for example, the state's positivity rate was around 7 percent, up from 5 percent in September.
"We are on shaky ground as we head into Thanksgiving," she said.
State public health officials are urging residents to do the following over the holiday:
Limit holiday travel
Avoid family gatherings, especially indoors
Practice the 3 W's — wearing a face mask, waiting 6-feet apart and washing hands frequently.
"If you're going to travel or get together, plan ahead," Cohen said. "Think about getting a COVID-19 test three or four days ahead of time. A test can help you know if you have COVID-19, even if you do not have symptoms."
Tests can miss some infections, she warned. "It's not a free pass, so you still need to wear your mask and practice all the 3Ws."