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Cooper on why he hasn't issued mask mandate: 'Everybody knows what to do'

North Carolina COVID-19 cases are up 36% from last week with over 2,100 new cases confirmed on Tuesday. Hospitalization numbers are at their highest since February.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — With COVID-19 cases surging across North Carolina due to the delta variant, Gov. Roy Cooper held a news conference Wednesday afternoon to discuss the state's mask recommendation and back-to-school guidelines. 

Cooper said he's optimistic that school districts that aren't requiring masks will reconsider their policy to prevent the spread of COVID-19 among students and staff. Cooper said he wasn't going to mandate masks because "everybody knows what to do." 

Cooper also shared his disappointment with health care workers who have protested against mandatory vaccines. The governor said it was their "responsibility" to get vaccinated and praised health care providers for requiring shots for employees.

On Wednesday, North Carolina reported 3,413 new cases with 12.2% of COVID-19 tests coming back positive. Hospitalizations are up by more than 1,000 from this time one month ago. To put this data in perspective, North Carolina was seeing these numbers back in February, before the COVID-19 vaccine was available to all adults. So far, 58% of adults are fully vaccinated, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. 

To help promote vaccinations, North Carolina is now offering $100 cash cards for people who get their first dose at select clinics. That's a big jump from the previous program that offered $25 cards for vaccinations. People who drive patients to their vaccine appointment are also eligible for a $25 cash card from the state. 

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Last week, Cooper urged everyone, regardless of their vaccination status, to wear masks indoors due to the rapid spread of COVID-19. Cooper stopped short of a mandate but begged people to get vaccinated as soon as possible. 

This spike in cases is happening faster than past increases and Dr. Mandy Cohen, secretary for the state's Department of Health and Human Services, said one person can spread delta to six others.

RELATED: 'It was horrible': Health care worker's near-death experience calls her to encourage vaccines

"This virus doesn’t care about county lines but it does care about low vaccination rates," she said. "That is what we're very much focused on."

Click here for a list of vaccination sites in Mecklenburg County

RELATED: When the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine could receive full FDA approval

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