RALEIGH — State officials continued the call for North Carolina residents to remain vigilant in the fight against COVID-19.
During a media briefing on Wednesday, Jan. 6, Gov. Roy Cooper and Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen stressed concern about North Carolina seeing record numbers in new cases of the novel coronavirus, hospitalizations and percent positive cases of the virus.
In recent days, North Carolina has experienced record high numbers of cases reported, as well as percent of tests that are positive and people hospitalized with COVID-19. The state also reports that more than 7,000 residents in the state have passed away in connection with the virus since its onset last March.
NC with 84 counties of critical spread
Against the backdrop of rising cases and concerning statistics, Cohen provided an update of the NCDHHS COVID-19 County Alert System.
As of Jan. 6, 84 of North Carolina’s 100 counties are currently categorized as red, or critical, on the County Alert System map, indicating the highest level of viral spread, with 12 counties classified as orange, or substantial risk level of spread, and four counties are classified in the yellow tier, signifying significant risk of spread. Avery, Ashe, Mitchell and surrounding counties are all classified in the red tier with the exceptions of Watauga and Burke counties, which are classified in the orange tier.
The full COVID-19 County Alert System report can be found by clicking to https://files.nc.gov/covid/documents/dashboard/COVID-19-County-Alert-System-Report.pdf.
“No matter where you live, work, worship or play, COVID-19 remains a deadly threat, and we’ve got to treat it that way,” Cooper said. “A new highly contagious strand of the virus has been detected in the United States, and we need to act as if it’s already here in North Carolina. This should inspire every one of us to double down on our safety precautions.”
Stay-at-Home Order extension
Cooper announced that the Modified Stay at Home Order currently in place through Friday, Jan. 8, is extended for three weeks through Jan. 29. The full text of Executive Order No. 188 may be viewed by clicking to https://files.nc.gov/governor/documents/files/EO188-Extension-of-Modified-Stay-at-Home-Order.pdf.
“This virus did not disappear at midnight on Dec. 31,” Cooper noted. “In fact, North Carolina (has had) some of our highest case counts, percent positives, hospitalizations and ICU bed usage numbers in the past few days.”
Cooper also announced the mobilization of the NC National Guard to coordinate with NCDHHS and NC Emergency Management in assisting local health departments and hospitals with efforts to disseminate the COVID-19 vaccine to communities across the state.
“Getting the vaccine out quickly is the most urgent priority right now,” Cooper explained. “We’ll use everything and everyone needed to get the job done.”
The Centers for Disease Control released information earlier in the week indicating that North Carolina ranks among the slowest states in the nation in regard to distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine. As of Tuesday, Jan. 5, the CDC said North Carolina had 498,450 doses delivered and had administered 121,881. The state’s vaccination rate per 100,000 people made North Carolina the 12th-slowest state in the country. Updated CDC data can be located by clicking to https://covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#vaccinations.
Secretarial Directive issued
Cohen issued a Secretarial Directive on Wednesday, Jan. 6, to provide continued clarity from the department on what is needed to protect the state populous.
“Public health data, contract tracing reports, and outbreak investigations indicate that in-home and other informal social gatherings are contributing to the rise in cases across the state. In familiar settings with friends and family, individuals may be more likely to forgo necessary precautions against transmission of COVID-19 such as maintaining social distance or wearing masks. The risk of transmitting and contracting COVID-19 is higher in indoor settings where individuals are in close physical contact (within 6 feet) for an extended period of time (more than 15 cumulative minutes),” the directive states. “While North Carolina has implemented many strategies to fight the spread of COVID-19, we must act now to save lives and protect our hospital capacity across North Carolina to ensure medical care is available to anyone who may need it, whether for COVID-19 or for any other reason.”
A number of items at the forefront of combatting the COVID-19 pandemic in North Carolina were indicated within the directive, including:
- Do not leave your house unless necessary for essential activities.
- Avoid leaving your house if you are over 65 years old or are high risk.
- Do not gather with people you do not live with.
- If you leave your house, wear a mask.
- Avoid places where people are not wearing masks.
- Stay away from crowds and places where people are gathering in large numbers.
- If you have gathered with people who do not live with you, assume that you have become infected with the virus and get tested.
“There is an alarming amount of virus everywhere in our state,” Cohen stated. “We are in a very dangerous position. Every single North Carolinian needs to take immediate action to save lives and protect themselves and each other.”