Three months into the COVID-19 pandemic, North Carolina faces its first real wave of the virus, explained Dr. Mandy Cohen, the state’s secretary of health and human services, during a June 12 press conference. On June 12, NCDHHS reported 1,768 new cases of COVID-19 — a new record for the state.
“I think this is our first experience of an increase, and I don’t want to see a spike or a surge,” Cohen said. “This, for us, is a first.”
None of the key metrics public health officials are tracking to measure the virus’s spread are trending in the right direction, Cohen said. COVID-like syndromic cases have increased slightly, as has the percentage of positive tests, which at around 10% is among the nation’s highest levels. Ideally, that metric would be closer to 5%, she noted.
Lab-confirmed cases have had a “fairly sizable increase,” hitting over 1,000 new cases on four separate days in the last week, Cohen continued. Hospitalizations, which reached a record high on June 11, have also been increasing.
Cohen encouraged everyone to continue wearing face coverings, washing hands at every opportunity and keeping a 6-foot distance from others. “Because we were aggressive and took early action, we bought ourselves valuable time,” she said. “We have already proven we can flatten the curve, and we need to do that again.”
‘Nothing is off the table’
The increasing numbers and trends are “sobering,” Gov. Roy Cooper said during the same June 12 press conference. As North Carolina’s case count rises, he explained, “nothing is off the table” regarding the state’s COVID-19 response.
At this time, Cooper said he is closely monitoring the metrics and data from public health officials. No decision about relaxing restrictions in a potential Phase 2.5 or 3 has been made, he said — nor would he rule out a potential move back to stricter guidelines. Reopening K-12 public schools in August remains the state’s priority, he noted.
“We will continue to rely on the health experts reviewing this data,” Cooper emphasized. “No decisions have been made yet, but the trends we’re seeing have been concerning.”
In other news
- Buncombe County and Western North Carolina Community Health Services continue to offer free community-based COVID-19 testing. Drive-thru testing will be offered at the main A-B Tech campus behind the Allied Health building on Tuesday, June 16, from 1-4 p.m., and walk-up testing will be offered at the Grant Center, located at 285 Livingston Street, on Thursday, June 18, from 1-4 p.m. Language translation services will be available at both locations.
- Henderson County Public Schools announced that high school athletes can resume practices on June 22. The district is adopting a phased reopening plan in accordance with NCHSAA guidelines and will require “pre-participation COVID-19 screenings and face coverings for all student-athletes and coaches.”
- The Cradle of Forestry announced a partial reopening, effective immediately. All trails and bathrooms, as well as the gift shop and Discovery Center lobby, are open for business Wednesday through Saturday, 9 a.m.-4 p.m. The museum, cafe, historic buildings and water fountains will remain closed until further notice.