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NC governor urges school districts to consider mask mandates amid of surge in COVID-19 cases

Gov. Cooper has been looking at North Carolina's COVID-19 trends to make decisions.

RALEIGH, N.C. — Gov. Roy Cooper and the COVID-19 task force shared an update on the pandemic Thursday at 3 p.m., and he took time to discuss rising COVID-19 cases among students and staff in Union County.

While the governor did not announce any new statewide restrictions, he continued to urge younger people to get vaccinated and stay safe. Cooper also continued to press local school boards to use the state's toolkit to determine when to switch to virtual learning, when to quarantine, and when to mandate masks.

While taking questions along with NCDHHS Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen, Cooper took time to discuss the situation with Union County Public Schools; more than 5,000 students and staff were in quarantine within the last week, and the school board again voted against mandating masks in a narrow 5-4 vote after a heated meeting.

"When local boards of education, superintendents, principals and teachers are educated about the science about this and they have to make the decision about local mask requirements, we have found that to be more effective," Gov. Cooper said. "We have found enforcement and compliance to be more effective. That's why we're working so closely with them, providing information to them about it. I hope that Union County, I know it was a close vote, I hope they will change their mind and move to a mandatory mask mandate there to protect students."

RELATED: Union County Public Schools board votes to keep masks optional

Gov. Cooper said other school boards have seen dramatic increases in cases without mask mandates that forced them to quarantine. Those boards, he said, then chose to require masks indoors. He also suggested those school districts require testing, which the state provides as a free resource.

Dr. Mandy Cohen went through the latest data. A concerning trend, only 35% of people 12 to 17 are vaccinated. The state partnering with Carowinds to offer vaccinations on site until September 12. Anyone who gets vaccinated gets a free ticket to the Winterfest event.

The governor also took time to praise healthcare workers for their continued efforts, and also to thank businesses who required employees to be vaccinated. Cooper said those businesses were setting a good example for others to follow.

Cooper's speech came hours before President Joe Biden is expected to announce stricter COVID-19 vaccine requirements for federal workers. The president originally allowed federal workers to get tested regularly if they didn't want the vaccine. Biden is expected to release a six-point plan to address the latest surge in cases. 

North Carolina is watching COVID-19 trends closely after Labor Day weekend. It's still too early to tell if we're seeing trends go up because of the holiday. 

Health officials say symptoms of COVID-19 typically present themselves around day five after contracting the virus. Test results take about two days to come back. Plus, another day or so for the NCDHHS dashboard to update, so next week might reveal more. 

Labs reported 6,290 new cases Thursday, but they made up 11.3% of recent COVID-19 tests, more than double the state's goal of 5% or lower. 

More than 3,800 North Carolinians are hospitalized with COVID-19. However, hospitals remain stable. 

Health officials say these numbers tell us vaccines work. If you're vaccinated against COVID-19, you're statistically far less likely to be hospitalized or worse. Physicians also say you're less likely to spread it. 

Sixty-five percent of all North Carolinians ages 12 and older have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.