"As cases across the country continue to rise, we've seen rapid increases in our key metrics here in North Carolina," Cooper said during a news conference. "Our case counts have broken single-day records on three separate days in just the last week, and the percent of tests returning positive has increased to more than 10 percent."
North Carolina could run out of hospital beds for COVID-19 patients in 6 weeks if trends continue, report says
WATCH: 'Very worried': Dr. Mandy Cohen explains latest North Carolina COVID-19 metrics
Specifically, the order imposes new measures that would close non-essential businesses like gyms, restaurants and retail at 10 p.m. nightly, and allow them to reopen at 5 a.m. The new restrictions also include moving the alcohol curfew to 9 p.m. -- two hours earlier than the previous curfew of 11 p.m. The order is set to expire post-New Year on Jan. 8.
North Carolinians are recommended to stay at home and work from home whenever possible.
"This order aims to limit gatherings and get people home where they're safer," Cooper said.
Face coverings continue to be required in all indoor public settings.
Tuesday's news conference follows a week in which the number of positive COVID-19 cases surpassed 6,000 for the first time, and an almost daily new record of hospitalizations.
Perhaps foreshadowing further restrictions in the future, both Cooper and Secretary of Health and Human Services Dr. Mandy Cohen warned the current spike in cases does not include an expected surge from Thanksgiving, but instead reflects the spread of the virus heading into the holiday weekend. According to Cohen, the 6,000 daily cases thus were likely the people who attended Thanksgiving dinners not yet knowing they were infected and exposed other people.
"We'll do more if our trends don't improve," Cooper said. "That could mean additional actions involving indoor restaurant dining, entertainment facilities or retail capacity. None of us want that. All these small businesses need more federal help. Congress and the President need to do that now."
Cooper and Cohen also announced Tuesday that more than 80 percent of North Carolina's counties are in the orange and red categories as part of the county alert system.
The number of red counties (critical community spread) has more than doubled since Nov. 23, up to 48 red counties from 20 red counties, Cohen said. There are now 34 orange counties (substantial community spread), as compared to 42 orange counties from the previous report.
"The virus is upon us with a rapid viciousness we haven't seen before," Cooper said.
Gov. Cooper and Dr. Cohen both are discouraging traveling and gathering this holiday season, unless you absolutely must. If you do decide to gather, they ask to get a test beforehand and to keep the gathering outside.
On the vaccine front, Dr. Cohen said North Carolina could have doses as early as next week. There are 11 facilities that have the "ultra-cold" storage required for the Pfizer vaccine. Once the FDA authorizes the vaccine and the CDC gives the "OK," 50 to 60 hospitals in the state will receive doses.
With a vaccine on the horizon, Gov. Cooper said North Carolinians must keep up good practices to remain safe.
"I know that news of effective and safe vaccines has given us all hope, but vaccines aren't here yet," said Cooper. "We have to act now to save lives, safeguard our hospital capacity and preserve our economy."