Cohen: 'You may have COVID right now and not know it.'
As North Carolina marked a second straight day with more than 10,000 new coronavirus infections, Dr. Mandy Cohen, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, said the anticipated holiday surge is upon us.
of emergency management. Mike's Bayberry, Monica McGee and Karen Magoon are American length sign language interpreters and Jackie and Jasmine. Motive. Here are Spanish interpreters as faras today's numbers. As of this morning, there were 100. There were 10,028 new cases reported today. Sorry, that's 10,028 new cases reported today. There are currently 3960 people hospitalized right now across North Carolina. And sadly, now there have been 7328 deaths. In the 10 months that we've been fighting this pandemic, this is the most worried that I've been for our state. We continue to set new records. We reported over 10,000 cases yesterday and again today. Our tests that are positive remain in the double digits and most worrisome, every day we see new record highs of people hospitalized. With Cove in 19 and record high of those needing intensive care, many hospitals have stopped non urgent procedures to free up staff or have opened additional covert units. The situation is so critical that last week the federal government said that if you were with people that you don't live with you should assume you've become infected with co vid and you're a danger toe. Others. Earlier this week, I issued my first ever ever secretarial directive with immediate actions for North Carolinians to take to save lives and slow the spread of this virus. It calls on North Carolinians to stay home. You should only leave home for essential activities such as going toe work or school for healthcare to care for family members or to buy food. If you're over 65 or at high risk for developing serious illness, use delivery services or an alternative pickup method for food and retail. Do not gather with people that do not live with you. Do not go to another persons home indoors and do not have others over your home indoors. When you do leave home for essential activities, always wear a mask and keep distance from people. Given the level of viral spread, there is a high risk that you could have co vid right now and don't know it. I know this is hard. We will get through it. We now even have um, or research that shows that the three W's work remember those three W's wear a mask. Any time you're with people, you don't live with weight apart from others and wash your hands often. And we have a new tool to combat this virus. It's our vaccines. We're working hard to get vaccines out to people as fast as possible. Our local health departments and hospitals have been ramping up quickly, putting their vaccine plans to work. Already, more than 180,000 doses have been given, and in the last 24 hours alone, 20,000 shots went into arms. We're hearing from our vaccine partners that they are anxious for more doses. The state is also in implementing its vaccine plan. We are moving forward with facilitating large vaccination events starting next week, and we continue to onboard additional vaccine providers, starting with our federally qualified health centers. Director Spray Berry will share how emergency management is supporting North Carolina's vaccine operational effort, particularly how they're supporting our local health departments who have been around the clock in around the clock pandemic response for close to a year. Now, remember, vaccine supplies are very limited, while some people want to be first in line to get their shot. We knew going into this that others have very legitimate reasons to be hesitant about the vaccine. Understandably, communities who have faced longstanding and continuing racial and ethnic injustices in our health care system and a broader society may feel greater distrust towards vaccines. All vaccine providers have the responsibility to ensure equitable access to vaccines, which means that they take intentional actions to reach and engage historically marginalized communities. We're partnering with trusted community leader leaders and organizations to provide accurate information to all North Carolinians, and we need your help. As you share information with the public. Please share these important fax. First, scientists had a head start. Thes vaccines were built upon years of work to develop vaccines for similar viruses. Like all vaccines, they were rigorously tested for safety and effectiveness. More than 70,000 people volunteered in clinical trials for the two vaccines to make sure they were safe and worked to Prevent Cove in 19. There were no serious safety concerns noted in the clinical trials, and to date the vaccines are 95% effective in preventing COVE in 19, you cannot get Cove in 19 from the vaccine. You may have temporary reactions like a sore arm, headache or feeling tired and achey for a day or two. After receiving the vaccine, I will be rolling up my sleeve to get my shot as soon as it's my turn. You can get accurate information about vaccines from our website. Your spot, your shot dot n c dot gov. You can also find contact information there for local local vaccine providers. It will take many months to vaccinate everyone who wants it. Keep practicing the three W's where a mask wait 6 ft apart. Wash your hands until everyone has gotten a chance to get vaccinated. And with that, I'll turn it over to director Spray Berry for a few remarks. Thank you, Secretary Cohen, and thank you for your continued outstanding leadership. You are appreciated. Good afternoon, everyone. Today is day 305 of the state emergency response team. Activation for the Cove in 19 response. First on update on the winter weather our state is experiencing. Snow has been falling in the Western counties and several inches have accumulated in some areas. Boone in Nashville have seen the most snow far so far, with 4 to 5 inches, and Mawr incoming hazardous travel conditions are expected across much of western North Carolina well into the weekend. Our great partners in the Highway patrol in the Department of Transportation are out working hard to keep the roads clear and open their no major traffic incidents or power outages to report at this time we have deployed resource is to to known highway hot spots where vehicles often get stranded during winter weather. Those are the Turner grade on Interstate 77 in Surrey County and the steep grade on Interstate 40 near Old Fort in McDowell County, the gateway to the mountains. These resource is include personnel and equipment from the Highway Patrol, N, C, D O T and the North Carolina National Guard, including heavy records that can help quickly free up vehicles that are stuck. This strategy works to keep these important interstates open. If you're in an area with significant snowfall, it's best to stay off the roads unless you absolutely must travel. This will help the D, O. T and local crews clear the roads quickly. If you must travel, slow down, increase following distance and travel carefully. Using your lights and wipers is always you can visit Dr in c dot gov for the latest on road conditions and closed roads. This winter weather reminds us of how important it is to have a family emergency plan for all hazards. Everyone is encouraged to go to ready n c dot org's to build their own custom plan Being prepared. So important. Special thanks to Seth, a 17 year old from care who mailed us some important information on preparedness so we can enhance our operation here. The Stadio See We're continuing to support our outstanding partners at the Department of Health and Human Services through the statewide vaccination effort. Daily. Interagency planning is ongoing to support vaccination operations. This includes our local partners. The first National Guard teams to support vaccination will be reporting early next week to serve in Forsyth County and with album All Regional Health Services AH Public Health Agency that serves eight counties in north eastern North Carolina. Additional teams from the National Guard are currently being assembled and will be deployed based on local needs of our county partners. The National Guard is supporting this vaccine mission while continuing its work supporting food banks and rapid covert testing sites across the state during the pandemic. R N C E M Logistics team continues to support de HHS and the distribution of personnel protective equipment statewide. We're also supporting hospitals in their med surge efforts to accommodate increasing numbers of patients, emergency supplies of dry ice or in place at our warehouses in Tarboro and Baden. This dry ice can be requested by hospitals, health departments or medical providers. If they're a critical risk of losing valuable vaccine. Do the loss of ultra cold storage are unable to obtain dry ice through normal purchasing methods? Let me encourage everyone to get the vaccine. When your turn comes, it's safe and it's free. I'll be rolling up my sleeve to get the shot when it's my turn. In addition to the three W's, our best chance to end this pandemic is for most of the population. To receive the vaccine, you have a spot. So take your shot a special thanks to all of our local health departments, hospitals, health care systems and local emergency management agencies for your outstanding work in partnership as my battle buddy, Doctor Mandy Cohen says it's more critical than ever to observe the three W's, where a cloth face covering. Wait at least 6 ft apart and wash your hands often. That's where weight and washed is Always. Don't forget to look out for your family, friends and neighbors and to call your loved ones daily with kindness and cooperation. We will all get through this together is one team, one mission and one family. Thank you, Madam Secretary. Mhm. Thank you, Director. I appreciate you and your team as well. It's been a tremendous partnership over almost a year. At this point, I'm that with that, we will open and take your questions. Um, you you have any idea when? And the state will have enough vaccine where regular people will be able to get it. And what are your thoughts about the the amount of vaccine you've gotten so far? And, uh, how how has that been going? Part of the distribution. Thanks, Steve. We know that vaccine is in limited supply. Right now, we have been vaccinating our health care workers who worked directly with co vid patients, folks in our long term care facilities, both the workers and the residents. And now, just this week, we've started to move on to those who are above the age of 75 after our next group will be those who are our frontline essential workers, meaning those workers who have to go in person to work. Um, and it is hard for them to be physically distant in that work. Our police officers are childcare workers, and we have that prioritization to make sure that we can protect those who are at the highest risk of death and dying. That's why we went to our nursing homes. And long term care are most vulnerable. Um, but it's also why we wanted to think about those at highest risk of exposure, Which is why we vaccinated are health care workers first, and our end, as we move forward, will be working to vaccinate those frontline essential workers like our police, firefighters, childcare workers. Um, right now we are are working very quickly to get the vaccine that we have been allocated by the federal government into arms. As a state, we have allocated all of that vaccine out to our vaccine providers, and they have been working very hard over the last. It's only been, you know, 23 weeks that we're into this, but they've been ramping up, particularly since we've started 2021. They've really ramped up their efforts on day, really proud of the them, embracing that sense of urgency that we all feel to get vaccine into folks as quickly as possible now as faras when it will be available for anyone who wants it. I think as we've been saying all along, I think it's gonna be well into the spring, maybe the late spring, until we have enough vaccine available to anyone who wants it at any point. Um, so we're going to keep working to get the vaccine that we get from the federal government out to folks as quickly as possible. That's why we're supporting our local partners. Are health departments are hospitals now R. F Q. Hcs in their work and getting a vaccine as quickly as possible? I wanna thank our National Guard partners and our emergency management partners that are continuing to support these efforts as we all work together here in North Carolina. Thanks, Steve. Our next question is from loans for business North Carolina. Help! Hi. Thanks for coming. Thank you very much for camping our calls. They you know, I think like other reporters. We've been news baited with question from readers. But when they get their vaccine, So even though I didn't have some clarification about that, it's gonna take some time. There's some basic questions like this one. Can people get the vaccination in accountancy? That's not their home county. Great. Thanks, Rose. Great question. So, yes, you can get a vaccine even if it's not in your home county. Now we always encourage folks toe thio call close to home first and start there. Um but no, you don't have to stay in your county, particularly depending on where your your home is located. It may be quicker to go to another county, um, or to your local hospital that might that might be closer, but maybe right over the border of the county so you can show up in in any county, though we'd encourage folks thio call their their local departments of health. First, um, we have prioritized trying to get this vaccine and an access point in all 100 counties. Right? That was a priority for us here in North Carolina to make sure there were access points in every single county so that folks who didn't have the ability to drive. Uh, too far Could get an access point in their county. But you could show up at at any site, um, and get a vaccine, assuming that you are meeting the prioritization requirement. And remember, we're still a health care workers who work directly with Covad Patients are long term care folks, either, though the workers or the residents. Um, And now we have opened to those who are over 75 years old of age, so 75 or older. So those are the Those are the groups that we are vaccinating right now. Great. Thanks for us. Go ahead. Okay, I was so so then. The next thing is, you know what the logjam and, uh, you know, getting back things to the state is that is that sets of manufacturers aren't manufacturing fast. Earlier predicted is that a hold up on the federal side is that getting it out to counties is that county capacity. Because, you know, we've spoken Thio a number of counties where they just don't have a lot of capacity, and so they're not doing a lot. And finally, you know, it's the National Guard posts will be going to precise County. But what about getting them Thio? Um Thanks, Rose. Well, let me start with the latter half. Which is how are we supporting our local partners to do this? And as director spray Berry mentioned, like thes are partners that have been running hard for almost a year responding to this pandemic, and we at the state want to make sure we're supporting them. So our partners, an emergency management are are are partnering with our local health departments. And what we've asked is any of our local health departments need any support, any kind of staffing needs, whether that's back office, um, help Thio even do data entry to do the vaccines themselves. They just need to raise their hand and ask. And we have the ability, um, to mobilize staff to to various counties, depending on what they need. Eso folks just need to raise their hand, use the same process that we go through if we're in a hurricane, um, to use that request process, we're using staffing support such as those who have been doing our our contact tracing, and we're mobilizing them and and redeploying them as we need to support folks. In addition, there have been wonderful. Um, offers a volunteer help across the board, particularly for vaccinators. There have been a lot of folks who have raised their hand to say we can be vaccinators, which is wonderful. So our team has been coordinating with those folks who have volunteered to match them up with where the need is, And I think that's why you're seeing the rate of vaccine Going into arms has really picked up. Now that we're out of the holiday time and were able to sort of do that, um, support for our local partners. Things have really sped up, and I think you're going to continue to see that pace continue. Thio accelerate as far as the overall, um, allocation that we get from the federal government, that that I think is questions better answered for them. They are making the determination at the federal level how much vaccine we get, it the state. Then our job is to get that out to our providers as quickly as possible, which we have done, um, and and then for our providers to get those vaccine into arms. So I think we're working along all of the different pieces of this logistics chain, if you will. Um, you know, look, everyone's working hard, feel that sense of urgency of wanting to get vaccines out as quickly as possible. And we've been ramping up work, missy. Director. Anything to add? Nope. He's good. All right. Thanks, Rose. Okay, Um, expect change from Vanessa. Research with W C and D. T. V. Charles. Hi. I have a year, and you're taking my question. We recently just had a field hospital open up in our area and renew. Your and I wanted to know if you use any other plans to build field hospitals anywhere else. And also, if you could explain maybe what the process is into getting a field hospital or maybe one of decisions how the decision is made to put a field hospital location and when that actually will will be done. Like, you know, with a hospital reaches a certain capacity, we're going to kind of build off the lost there. Vanessa, Thanks for that question. So, a couple of things Yes, a field hospital is now open. And I mean, I think it is is very much recognizing the fact that our hospitals are under strain. Um, that they needed to set up a new facility to add some additional capacity. Um, in order to be able to respond to co vid that opened yesterday. They have have patients there right now, and that is really a local decision. They came to us saying we want to open that field hospital. We think that is the solution that will help us here amongst, uh, the these counties and these hospital systems. And then at the state we want we we've worked very hard to make sure that they have all of the regulatory and and, uh, safety things that they need to have in place in orderto open ah, facility like that, right, in order to operate at a at a level that can offer the medical support and the safety that it needs to dio. So we work closely with them once the local, uh, teams on the ground said that is the solution that we think is gonna make most sense for us. So there's not a direct trigger necessary to say if this is happening, we're gonna build a field hospital for them. That was the right solution. Ah, lot of other places in the state. We have a lot of ability to surge our hospital capacity within the walls of the hospitals themselves, so we don't have to go outside of them. Often the rate limiting step or the most precious commodity for us is people. Resource is our talented doctors and nurses and respiratory tax and others on DSO. The physical space is often not the limiter. So what we have been working to make sure we can do with our hospital partners is have good visibility. Do they have the staffing that they need? Are we able to move patients around? If if one hospital starts to get overloaded on, can we all share the workload? And what I would say is there's been fantastic collaboration across the state, and I think that comes after a year of hard work, uh, to to be in the place to be able to respond like this. So that was the right decision for the communities to to build that field hospital not necessarily a trigger in all places. I think every, uh, region and and partnership will will make different decisions and from from us at the state We just want to support them in those decisions. Anything else you'd like to add? Okay. Thank you. Thanks, Vanessa. Yeah, go ahead, Vanessa. Okay, so obviously we've been seeing the numbers really, really taking off. You know, I would say through the fallen into the winters we get here here into the new year is well, of course, um e mean. And then I feel like the numbers have been growing like they've they've never grown before. I mean, is there anything else that play other than people letting their guard down getting together? Maybe they're not wearing masks. Um, do you think maybe we have this new variant here in North Carolina, or is there something else that you're seeing playing a factor into this large growth? Yeah. Vanessa, it's a great question. I think some of it starts with the fact of the way this virus spreads. It's called exponential growth, meaning as once you start to accept to increase, you actually accelerate that rate of increase. It's not a quote. It's not a linear acceleration. It's a it's an exponential would mean it. It gets faster and faster as you get more and more, and I think that is what we're seeing. Number one second. I do think that that folks have had a long year and I get that they are. They're tired. Um, they want life to go back to pre pandemic. Um, and I think sometimes we are letting down our guard, particularly around the holidays. I know there was a lot of holiday travel. We saw it in pictures at our, um, at our airlines, um and and such. So we know there was holiday travel. We know that these increased cases are linked to the fact that folks are getting together indoors and not wearing their mask. And that's why I issued the secretarial directive this week to be extremely clear about what folks should not dio. They need to be staying home unless they are conducting essential business. Unless you're going toe work or school getting groceries, you should not be going to someone else's home indoors. You should not be having people over to your home indoors, So those are the things that I think are happening now as far as the variant. It is possible that that variant is here, and in fact it is. It is likely and we are operating as if it was here. Now, it has not been identified here, and this is the variant that was first identified in the United Kingdom as being more contagious. It has been identified in a number of states across the United States here. It's why we're operating as if it's already here and that we need to realize that this virus was contagious before and now is even more contagious. Um, as we go forward. So I think it is all of these things together. Which is why we have to be particularly vigilant. Aziz. We move through the next number of months. Thank you. Our next question is from Ben System with the News and Observer. Thank you for taking my question this afternoon, Dr Cohen. Um, so I see you. Capacity has decreased over the last few weeks. Um, in North Carolina just saw its second day in a row with new cases reported at over 10,000. Um, other parts of the country have seen their I C u capacity hit zero. Do you see that? Um, happening here? The spread isn't mitigated in the next weeks. I'm also as you were talking about earlier with the field hospital that's been set up in Western North Carolina. Um, is there discussion about activating the state medical shoulder? Um, in Hamlet. Ben, thanks for that question. As far as I see you. Capacity? Yes, I do expect for us to see further um, uh, strain on that capacity. Now, to date, we've been able to manage that in a number of ways. First, I know that our hospital systems are not doing some of their non urgent procedures that could result in needing to use more hospital beds and even just the staff. So some of the staff that can work and do in the surgical area could now be moved over to handle. I see you level patients so right. It's also managing physical space. But it for I see you care in particular, it's making sure we have the doctors and nurses that know how to give that higher level of intensive care unit, uh, kinds of care that that is what we've been able to manage. Well, I think so. Folks are decreasing some of their, um, non urgent procedures. They're also putting to patients in a room, for example, so that they can manage their staff better as well as manage equipment as and and infection control. So we're trying to manage in that way and conserve space and and staff resource is, um and then I think we're converting space over a no opening additional. I see you beds again. That requires the staffing to do that. Um, but that's what we're working through to make sure that folks have that capacity to expand if they need. It s so we're gonna manage this our to our day to day with our hospital partners as we go through this and as far as the the Hamlet area. As I was saying, physical space tends not to be our problem in most areas. But we have that Hamlet, uh, space in case we need to activate it. And we do need more physical space. But as of right now, we do not have plans to put that into action. Right? Right This moment. Anything else? Director? Okay, it's ready. He says thank you. Hey, a final question today will be a follow up from Den Systems. That the newsman journal. Um, thanks for taking my follow up, Dr Cohen. So is North Carolina concerned at all about the CVS Walgreens partnership regarding vaccinations of long term care staff and residents? Um, I As of Tuesday, that partnership had received 166,000 vaccine doses and given out 13,000 of those, Um, does the state have any indication that that has picked up this week? Thanks for that question. I think a couple of things with the CVS Walgreens partnership again, that is, that is, ah, program run by the federal government. Um, and it was our decision to turn on that program. And when we do, we are required to allocate some of our doses to that program. We felt it was important to do, given the high risk nature of our vulnerable populations and nursing homes and others. Um and so we did allocate those doses. Um, I will say that we are not yet getting the direct data from the CVS and Walgreens program to the state. Um, it goes to the federal government first, because again, it is a federal program. But we're hoping to Seymour of that data so we can better understand. And I can better answer your question ban about um, how things are going there? Because we do see the fact that we aren't seeing the kind of numbers we were We, uh, that that I think they were hoping for either in in the first week, and we're not sure. Is that data lag or what? What is happening? So first, we need to see the data. Um, second, we are hearing anecdotal reports of mawr vaccine hesitancy in our long term care workforce. Um, it is why we have spent a long time thinking about how to partner with folks in our long term care settings with those who are in historically marginalized populations to make sure we're getting good information out to folks so that they feel confident about taking the vaccine when it is their turn s. So I think we still need to tease through all of this, but I think it's important for all of us to make sure we're getting out good information about the vaccine, that it is safe. It's effective. It's been tested. You can't get co vid from it. I think those air really key, important messages that everyone needs to see. I think you're going to see even Mawr. Public service announcements from us. More materials, um, to make sure that folks can get good information about this vaccine and make decisions. So I think there's first issue is getting transparency from the data of what's going on with the CVS and Walgreens, uh, program and then addressing any vaccine hesitancy that might be happening amongst our long term care workers s so that they can feel comfortable taking the vaccine. When it is, it is offered to them. Okay, I think that was our last question for today. I want to thank everyone for joining us for the second press conference of the week. Um, happy New year to everybody. Um, and we'll be back next week with more. Thank you. Mhm. Yeah. Mm hmm. Yeah, yeah.