Cooper: North Carolina staying in phase 3 after upward case trend


RALEIGH, N.C. (WAVY/WNCN) — North Carolina will stay in phase 3 of its coronavirus reopening plan for at least the next three weeks due to recent upward trends in key metrics, Gov. Roy Cooper says.

It was set to expire on Friday.

“We hope that greater enforcement, strong community leadership and more people doing the right things can lower these numbers,” Cooper said in a briefing Wednesday afternoon. “It’s critical that we take this time to focus on the basics — wear a mask, wash your hands, wait six feet apart from other people. These are the habits that helped lower our numbers over the summer, and they are still our best tools.”

It comes after NCDHHS reported 1,842 new coronavirus cases and 40 new deaths linked to the virus Wednesday. The state has seen an increase in new cases statewide for the past month, including a record number of new daily cases, 2684, on October 16.

State Health Secretary Mandy Cohen said she’s concerned about spread from informal social gatherings and other situations where people are close together, saying people should wear masks around anyone not in their immediate household. She said the colder months will be worse for spread because more people are indoors and the virus can spread more easily in colder, drier air.

“There’s no place in North Carolina that can let down their guard at this time,” Cohen said. “In the past two weeks, we’ve seen an increase in COVID-19 in clusters in social gatherings … things like informal get-togethers and family gatherings and parties. We’ve also seen an increase in cases in clusters in religious gatherings.”

Cooper said, “No one wants to spread COVID-19 accidentally to friends or family and so we must keep prevention at the forefront. Wearing a mask shows that you care about other people. It’s more for them than for you. Wearing a mask is an easy way to protect our communities and look out for each other.”

Cohen also talked about new additions to NCDHHS’ coronavirus website, including hospitalization data broken down by demographics.

A letter was sent to county and municipal leaders in 36 counties that met the following metrics:

  • The county has had 300 or more new cases in the last 14 days and has been identified by the White House Task Force as a county of concern.
  • The rate of cases is greater than 50 cases per 10,000 people.
  • The county is one of the three most populous in the state.

The letter also detailed actions to consider that have less severe penalties for violating COVID-19 executive orders than what is available through the state-level emergency powers.

The penalty for violating the state-level executive order is limited to criminal citations, which could result in imprisonment.

City and county governments can create ordinances that carry more flexible consequences such as civil fines.

Examples of local actions include:

  • Adopting an ordinance that imposes a civil penalty for violating its provisions.
  • Issuing a local Emergency Proclamation setting higher standards to address the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Supporting the local health director to issue and enforce an Imminent Hazard Abatement Order against entities whose actions, including failure to comply with the governor’s executive order, present an imminent hazard to your community. 

Letters were sent to leaders in the following counties:

  • Alamance
  • Avery
  • Burke
  • Caldwell
  • Caswell
  • Catawba
  • Chowan
  • Cleveland
  • Craven
  • Cumberland
  • Davidson
  • Duplin
  • Edgecombe
  • Gaston
  • Graham
  • Greene
  • Guilford
  • Hoke
  • Hyde
  • Johnston
  • Lincoln
  • Mecklenburg
  • Moore
  • Nash
  • New Hanover
  • Onslow
  • Pitt
  • Randolph
  • Robeson
  • Rockingham
  • Rowan
  • Scotland
  • Union
  • Wake
  • Watauga
  • Wayne

BELOW: Full coronavirus briefing with NC Gov. Roy Cooper Oct. 21, 2020.

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