As trends worsen, Cooper to release reopening guidance next week

STAY VIGILANT: As COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are increasing, now is not the time to become complacent. The “3W’s” remain the most effective way to stop the spread of the virus. Graphic courtesy of NCDHHS

North Carolina’s COVID-19 trends remain worrisome, and not just to state health officials. Over the weekend, Gov. Roy Cooper spoke to Vice President Mike Pence to discuss the state’s “concerning” numbers and to ask for additional federal assistance with testing, Cooper explained during a June 15 press conference. 

The state continued to see record numbers of COVID-19 growth over the weekend, including 823 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 on June 13 — a new state record. Cooper cited nine counties of “particular concern” due to high growth of the virus: Alamance, Duplin, Durham, Forsyth, Guilford, Johnston, Lee, Mecklenburg and Wake. The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services is working to assist local health departments in these areas with increased testing, contact tracing and personal protective equipment, explained Dr. Mandy Cohen, the state’s secretary of health and human services. 

Earlier, North Carolina had been expected to move into Phase 3 of Cooper’s three-phased reopening plan on Friday, June 26. The shift would allow restaurants, bars and entertainment venues to increase their capacity and allow larger numbers of people to attend public gatherings while placing fewer restrictions on vulnerable individuals. Cooper said he plans to announce early next week if North Carolina will move into the next phase and what the phase would look like.

Cooper also added that he’s considering making the wearing of cloth face coverings mandatory and is in discussions about the best way to do so. Right now, face coverings are required for employees working in personal care service, including hair and nail salons. 

“We want people to voluntarily do this, but we are looking at new rules to potentially make this mandatory,” Cooper said. 

‘Testing alone won’t help us’

North Carolinians still have the power to “flatten the curve,” but Cohen urged action to minimize further spreading the virus. “The trends are going in the wrong direction, but we can all do things to keep the virus level low and the spread down,” she said. 

The 3W’s — waiting six feet apart, washing hands often and wearing a face covering — remain the best way to keep from spreading the coronavirus, Cohen said. Anyone who meets the state’s expanded COVID-19 testing criteria should seek out testing, she added, including anyone who may have been directly exposed to the virus, works in a high-risk setting, attended a mass gathering or protest, or who comes from a historically marginalized group. 

After testing, Cohen emphasized the need to answer phone calls from local health departments working to conduct contact tracing. Those who feel sick should stay home, she said, and those who’ve been  in close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 need to stay home for 14 days. 

“Testing alone isn’t going to help us,” she said. “We need all of our individual actions to work together.” 

In other news

  • For a limited time, the Red Cross is offering free COVID-19 antibody testing for all blood donations. Blood samples taken at the time of donation will be sent to a testing laboratory, and antibody results will be available within seven to 10 days of donation. All blood donors through June 30 will also receive a $5 Amazon gift card. 
  • Community Action Agencies across the state have begun to receive funds from the NCDHHS to help low-income families meet needs caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The funds, which are part of the federal Community Services Block Grant, can be used to “help eligible residents facing eviction with unmet rent and utility expenses.” 
  • UNC Asheville will receive $610,000 in funding to help fight COVID-19, according to a June 13 announcement from the UNC Board of Governors. UNCA’s project proposal includes a WNC University Health Ambassador program to “engage campus communities in rapidly adopting safe, evidence-based practices to establish a culture of safety,” and a rapid rollout of the Social Bridging Initiative to “increase connection of socially-isolated individuals.” 
  • Buncombe County’s COVID-19 Live Community Updates will now be held once a week on Thursday at 2:00 p.m. On Monday, the Community Update will be provided by press release, according to Buncombe’s Department of Health and Human Services communication team. Xpress had not received the Monday press release as of press time. 
SHARE

Thanks for reading through to the end…

We share your inclination to get the whole story. For the past 25 years, Xpress has been committed to in-depth, balanced reporting about the greater Asheville area. We want everyone to have access to our stories. That’s a big part of why we've never charged for the paper or put up a paywall.

We’re pretty sure that you know journalism faces big challenges these days. Advertising no longer pays the whole cost. Media outlets around the country are asking their readers to chip in. Xpress needs help, too. We hope you’ll consider signing up to be a member of Xpress. For as little as $5 a month — the cost of a craft beer or kombucha — you can help keep local journalism strong. It only takes a moment.

About Molly Horak
Molly is a recent graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and writer for Mountain Xpress. Her work has appeared in the Citizen-Times, News and Observer and Charlotte Observer. Follow me @molly_horak

Before you comment

The comments section is here to provide a platform for civil dialogue on the issues we face together as a local community. Xpress is committed to offering this platform for all voices, but when the tone of the discussion gets nasty or strays off topic, we believe many people choose not to participate. Xpress editors are determined to moderate comments to ensure a constructive interchange is maintained. All comments judged not to be in keeping with the spirit of civil discourse will be removed and repeat violators will be banned. See here for our terms of service. Thank you for being part of this effort to promote respectful discussion.

12 thoughts on “As trends worsen, Cooper to release reopening guidance next week

  1. Sandra

    “The state continued to see record growth in COVID-19 metrics over the weekend, including a count of 823 patients hospitalized with the disease on June 13 — a new state record. ” Already old news. NC breaks another hospitalization record today with 829 hospitalized due to Covid-19. When will our local officials wake up and do something to stop the insanity that is downtown? Sure, we need tourists but the crowds of unmasked people at Wicked Weed and other places is ridiculous. Either step up, set some enforceable guidelines and manage the problems here or step back and let someone else do it. It’ll be worse when we’re all forced to shut down and stay at home again, I promise you.

    5
    5
    • luther blissett

      I drove through downtown on Saturday for the first time in weeks and yes, it was a mess around obvious tourist traps like Wicked Weed and other breweries like Twin Leaf — not just on the patios, but from people gathered on the sidewalks waiting to be let in. Lots of mask-cessories dangling from wrists or around necks. (Gov. Cooper’s big mistake was to let brewpubs reopen: yes, some like Sierra Nevada are laid out more like restaurants, and New Belgium is only opening its beer garden and using a reservation system, but they’re exceptions here.)

      Reimposing restrictions is a harder political task than keeping them as they are for longer than planned, but being stuck in limited reopening is the worst of both worlds if the case numbers continue to increase week-on-week, because it concentrates things downtown in the places that are open.

      This is still the first wave. Just because we’re weary of it doesn’t mean it’s weary too.

  2. DARREL JORGENSEN

    What are the demographics of those who test positive and who are hospitalized? How many of those hospitalized or who have died are from long-term care facilities. Until the governor and his sidekick give us REAL data be prepared to see a lot of resistance. Especially when Ray shows it is OK to be in large groups he agrees with and doesn’t wear a mask himself.

    8
    4
    • Charles

      Pretty much all the data you mentioned is readily available on the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services web site, so the REAL data is REALLY there. You might want to at least know the name of the governor of the state you live in too. It’s Roy Cooper.

      2
      7
    • Dopamina

      The data was not hard to find:
      https://covid19.ncdhhs.gov/dashboard/cases

      The odd part about your comment was your question about long-term care facilities – what difference does this make as to whether or not we collectively have a problem? Am I correct to assume that you may not think there’s a problem if it’s only the elderly and invalid that get sick and die? I hope not because that would be terribly cruel, would be nice to see a little more compassion afforded to some of the most vulnerable among us.

      But hey, maybe you’re one of those people who are honest with themselves and have no qualms whatsoever sacrificing the elderly to the altar of the economy :(

      • DARREL JORGENSEN

        Aren’t you the witty one? The problem is that Ray has refused to mandate that long-term care facilities test everyone and often. He only yesterday started testing at the half dozen or so state-owned facilities. The fact is, the people dying are in those facilities which means that the public as a whole is not as affected. Of the 30 or so deaths in Alamance County 27 were in long-term care facilities. RayRay and his sidekick need to start answering the questions that they get and take the hard questions from the outlets that they have been ignoring.

          • DARREL JORGENSEN

            Not all of it.

            Of all of the positive tests, how many are from the same person. Some people have had multiple tests that were positive. We have not been told that.

  3. DARREL JORGENSEN

    One thing for sure…figures do not lie…but liars figure.

    7
    6

Leave a Reply

To leave a reply you may Login with your Mountain Xpress account, connect socially or enter your name and e-mail. Your e-mail address will not be published. All fields are required.