Gov. Cooper and members of the Coronavirus Task Force will share updates on COVID-19 at 2 PM. Watch live here:

— Governor Roy Cooper (@NC_Governor) October 21, 2020

The final phase of lifting North Carolina’s stay-at-home order will continue until at least November 13 after the state’s daily case count surged in October. 

Phase 3 was scheduled to end Friday—which in theory would have returned the state to normal operations—however, cases have spiked recently. North Carolina reached its highest case count of 2020 on October 16, with 2,684 COVID-19 cases that day. The day before had 2,532 cases. Prior to October, the previous record was in mid-July.

In a Wednesday press conference, Dr. Mandy Cohen, secretary for the Department of Health and Human Services, said many of these cases seemed tied to social gatherings, including weddings and funerals, and religious services. Governor Roy Cooper encouraged some cities and counties to consider putting more restrictions into place than what Phase 3 has to offer, like stopping alcohol sales early.

“As this pandemic continues, I know it’s tiring and difficult to keep up our guard, especially when we’re gathered with people we love, but it’s necessary,” Cooper said. “No one wants to spread COVID-19 accidentally to friends or family. And so we must keep prevention at the forefront.”

The state is also encouraging law enforcement to step up how they handle violations of the executive order. Cohen and Erik Hooks, secretary for the Department of Public Safety, are encouraging officers to fine businesses or individuals for breaking the rules.

There are currently 1,219 people hospitalized due to the virus. There have been 4,032 deaths.

Although the state’s highest case numbers continue to come out of the state’s meatpacking plants, the state reports that clusters associated with the industry have decreased since May. The industry reports 3,841 cumulative cases, although that doesn’t count migrant farmworkers. Similarly, colleges and universities have almost 2,000 cumulative cases, but there have been fewer clusters since August. 

Cooper also provided updates on the NC Housing Opportunities and Prevention of Evictions (HOPE) Program, saying 12,000 people who qualified for assistance have asked for it. 

“I haven’t seen my parents in person, and I miss seeing them play with my girls,” Cohen said at the conference. “And I’m sad I’ve never met my new baby niece. We’re doing everything we can to slow this virus. The simple fact is: we can’t do it on our own.”

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