North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper arrives for a press briefing on the COVID-19 virus at the Emergency Operations Center on Thursday, June 18, 2020 in Raleigh, N.C.

As coronavirus (COVID-19) numbers continue to rise rapidly around the state of North Carolina, and the country, Gov. Roy Cooper announced that the state will be enhancing the statewide NC mask mandate already in effect.

“I have a stark warning for North Carolinians today: We are in danger,” Governor Cooper said. “This is a pivotal moment in our fight against the coronavirus. Our actions now will determine the fate of many.

“Our statewide mask requirement has been in effect since June and it is still our best weapon in this fight,” Cooper added. “Today’s executive order will further tighten that mandate, making it clear that everyone needs to wear a mask whenever you are with someone you don’t live with.”

The release from the state said: “In addition to extending Phase 3 capacity limits and safety requirements, the Order tightens the existing statewide mask requirement – making it clear that everyone needs to wear a mask whenever they are with someone who is not from the same household. The Order also adds the mask requirement to several additional settings including any public indoor space even when maintaining 6 feet of distance; gyms even when exercising; all schools public and private; and all public or private transportation when travelling with people outside of the household.”

Cooper said the order will also do more to ensure businesses are enforcing mask requirements for staff and customers, and limiting the number of people in the business. It also increased some of the enforcement mechanisms on the 10-person indoor gathering limits. The enhancements to the order allow for state and local officials to put more enforcement tools in place.

“I know it’s been a long 9 months of virtual church, holidays, birthdays and more,” Cooper said. “But if we can keep it up just a bit longer, we can ensure that more loved ones make it to next year’s Thanksgiving table.”

The NC mask mandate order is extended through December 11. It comes as North Carolina has experienced multiple days recently of record highs of cases statewide. The hospitalization rates are also increasing statewide, which is the more problematic area.

The state also announced that 20 counties statewide have moved into the critical level on its new county alert system map. That’s an increase of 10 counties since last week’s numbers. An additional 42 counties, including Cumberland County are in the orange “substantial spread” zone.

“This week you’ll see that 10 more counties have been designated as red, indicating critically high levels of community spread,” Cooper said. “We now have 20 red counties and 42 orange counties. This is deadly serious.”

There is not a change in the phase level for the state at this time, Cooper said. But he said the next seven to 14 days will be critical in determining if a dial back to stricter phases will be necessary.

Brandon Plotnick is a former sports journalist, now living in the digital space with interests all over the musical and pop culture map.