RALEIGH (WTVD) -- Governor Roy Cooper on Wednesday indirectly blasted President Trump's campaign for holding several large rallies in the state over the past month and suggested they are a component of the recent spike in COVID-19 cases across the state.
President Trump has visited North Carolina eight times since August with a ninth visit coming later this week in Fayetteville.
"I am really concerned with campaigns that are flying all over the place, coming into North Carolina, and holding these large events gathering groups together and then leaving," Cooper said at an afternoon news conference. "We're seeing more of a concentration (of COVID-19 cases) in rural areas and we're seeing it more in the white population. We're seeing spread, and there's no way that large gatherings over long periods of time with people standing together - there's no way that helps things. What we need right now is the opposite. We need people taking responsibility."
Trump, at his rallies, has lobbed criticism at Cooper and demanded that he "open the state."
"As we grapple with this pandemic, let's remember that our economy will only be as strong as our efforts to stamp out this virus," Cooper added. "Recovery depends on us taking this virus seriously and doing our part to prevent its spread as we work toward a vaccine and more effective treatments."
Dr. Mandy Cohen, North Carolina's Secretary of Health and Human Services, urged residents to "get back to the basics" of wearing masks, washing hands and waiting six feet apart from each other.
"What is worrisome, is the increase in cases associated with clusters in religious and social gatherings," she said. "Meeting virtually is best but I understand that people want and need to be together. If you do meet in person, take steps to keep everyone as safe as possible. Keep gatherings small and increase ventilation."
Also on Wednesday, Governor Cooper announced a new Executive Order that aims to help an estimated 300,000 to 400,000 renters unable to pay their landlords and could otherwise face eviction.
"The result during this global pandemic will be more North Carolinians staying in their homes, more landlords getting paid rent, and fewer utility companies shutting off power," Cooper said.
The new Order follows an initiative rolled out earlier this month called NC HOPE, a $117 million program providing assistance to eligible renters experiencing financial difficulties.
People can apply for help by calling 2-1-1 or going to nc211.org/hope.