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.