Cooper briefing: Icy roads and COVID vaccine update
Gov. Roy Cooper addresses the wintry weather hitting the Triangle and the impact on COVID-19 vaccination distribution.
19 and the pandemic response. Getting our public school Children into the classroom and the severe weather that has hit our state this week. As of today, we have had 833,423 confirmed co vid 19 cases, 3916 new cases reported since yesterday, 1892 people in the hospital and, sadly, 10,766 people who have died. Our prayers continue to go out to those who've lost loved ones to this cruel virus. But we're encouraged to see our cove in 19 numbers declining and remaining stable for the first time Since late November, the number of people hospitalized in North Carolina due to the virus has dropped under 2000. We're also tracking a decline in case numbers and seeing the state's percent of positive cases go lower, though both are higher than we want to see. But day by day, North Carolina is making progress and this is good news, and we'll be examining that and other improving data as we work on the next executive order. But we still must keep our guard up as well as our mass, especially is more schools return to in person instruction after our encouragement, to do so 16 days ago. Keeping at your each other safe and keeping students and teachers in the classroom is a top priority, and it's vitally important toe wear, masks and practice social distancing. We know that our safety measures work even as we're seeing Mawr contagious variance of this virus out there. These actions can keep us safe until the vaccine is mawr widely available. North Carolina is continuing to distribute vaccines quickly, with nearly two million doses already administered, and we're seeing progress on our efforts to distribute vaccines equitably. For example, last week, 23% of our allotted first doses were administered to black North Carolinians. This is up from just 13% 5 weeks ago. I'm proud of our states work to give the vaccine quickly and equitably and will continue to expand these efforts due to the severe weather across the country. The Center for Disease Control. The CDC notified states across the country, including ours, that some vaccine shipments are delayed. This news is frustrating to all of us, but providers are working to get appointments scheduled and We're pushing to get Mawr vaccine for our state. Here in North Carolina, we know firsthand the disruption severe weather weather can create, and I'll touch on that in a moment. But first, I'd like to address the disruption that so many of our students and families have felt from remote learning during this pandemic. A swell a czar efforts to get students back in the classroom safely. As of today, 91 of the 115 school district's have returned to end person learning by mid March, 95% of our school district's plan to provide in person instruction and that will serve 96% of the state students. That's a good thing, and many students are going back because we've encouraged local school systems to do so. We know that in person learning can be held safely with proper health measures in place, and I'm joining education leaders to encourage school district's to take this step. However, it is critical that parents and teachers have confidence that their health and safety will remain a priority. I've communicated with legislative leaders that I can sign legislation requiring all school districts to return to the classroom if It requires compliance with the Department of Health and Human Services safety guidelines for schools and protects the ability of state and local leaders to respond to emergencies. The bill they just passed fails on both of these fronts. I'll continue to discuss potential new legislation with General Assembly leaders before taking action on the bill that I now have on my desk. It is critical for our students and teachers that we get this right now for an update on today's inclement weather. Today's ice storm brought down trees and power lines, leaving thousands in the dark and with MAWR ice on the way. As of 1 35 PM, there were nearly 23,000 without power. Most of the ice concern is in the West and northern Piedmont, with rainfall expected this afternoon and evening. There's a serious threat for river flooding and flash flooding in the eastern half of the state. This is especially true at the Tar River near Greenville and the Lumber River near Lumberton. We need to take this weather seriously. Yesterday, I declared a state of emergency to allow repair crews from out of state to more help quickly help communities who have lost power and also activated 40 members of the National Guard to assist with fallen tree and debris removal. The Department of Transportation is working to clear roads and debris, and they, along with the state Highway Patrol, ask you to please stay off the road in these icy areas. Today's icy weather and rain follows another storm this week, with a deadly tornado touching down in Brunswick County late Monday night. Yesterday, I visited there, and our prayers go out to those who lost loved ones or who were injured in the storm. The tornado caused significant damage, even demolishing some homes. And I heard harrowing stories from survivors who were glad to be alive. The state will marshall. All available resource is to help people recover. Right now, Emergency management is assessing the damages to determine what kind of additional assistance may be available. Also, people in southeastern North Carolina, particularly along the coast, should be on the lookout form or potential severe weather later today. Director Spray Berry will address that in just a minute. But first I want to thank our first responders. Emergency managers, law enforcement utility workers and others across the state who keep us safe. They worked tirelessly and fearlessly to help get people to safety, and already they've begun repairing the damage. I am grateful for their resilience as we face the aftermath of a tornado and winter storms across the country on top of a pandemic, many of us may be feeling worn down. Our state has experienced a lot of challenges, but one thing I know, North Carolinians are resilient. When we get knocked down, we get back up. And I know that if we continue to work together and keep keep each other safe, we'll get through this and we'll build back stronger than we were before. Also with me today is our secretary of public safety, Eric Hooks. As I mentioned, our director of emergency management, Mike Spray Berry is with us today. Dr. Cohen is not with us today, but we have with US Deputy Secretary of Health and Human Services Cody Ken's Lee and Deputy Secretary of North Carolina Medicaid Dave Richard, our Sign language interpreters or Monica McGee and Cameron Larson. And behind the scenes Jackie and Jasmine Motive via our our Spanish language interpreter's. I'll now recognize director Spray Berry for a few remarks, Mike, Thank you, Governor, and thank you for your outstanding leadership. Today is day 346 of the state emergency response team activation for the co vid response, and we're also activated for the winter storm. The icy weather we're seeing today is having major effects, especially in our northern and Western counties. Statewide is the governor mentioned public and private utilities air, currently reporting about 23,000 customers without power. Those numbers have been falling since about 11 a.m. but may rise again as temperatures drop this evening. We want to thank our utility partners for their readiness and professionalism as they have aggressively and decisively addressed power outages throughout the state. Please do not call 911 to report power outages. You could report those online or via phone directly to your utility company. 911 Centers across the state are already experiencing high call volumes, and we need to keep those lines open for true emergencies. If your power is out, do not use a generator or grill inside your home or garage. Deadly carbon monoxide film flames fumes can accumulate that, and you can't see them or smell them the National Guard. Soldiers at the governor's activated and he mentioned are staged armories in North Wilkesboro, Charlotte and Rockingham. They will deploy from those sites as they are requested to assist counties with clearing down trees and debris. We're always thankful for their service. Please avoid any unnecessarily travel today and tonight so that ice and down trees can be cleared from. The roads are hardworking. Highway patrol partners have already responded to more than 172 collisions today, and more than 420 calls for service. If you must travel, remember to treat intersections as a four way stop when traffic signals air out, reduce speed, increased following distance and scan the road ahead for hazards. Move over to make room for those working alongside the road to respond to collisions. Remove tree and restore power. R D O T teammates have more than 1100 workers on the roads today in order to keep him clear. As of noon, D o T reports that all major roads from the mountains to the coast are open. Crews have reported possible icy spots on roads in western and north central North Carolina. Most highway divisions were reporting little ice accumulation on roads services, but said ice on elevated surfaces or down trees could become an issue as temperatures continue to drop. Today, at least 28 School district's are reported closing have reported closing today, with several delayed starts and many others on remote learning. In Brunswick County, our disaster recovery staff is continuing to work with local government officials to conduct damage assessments after Monday's tornado near Ocean Isle Beach. Again, our prayers are with those folks who were harmed or injured by that tornado. There is a slight threat for more severe weather in that part of the state tonight, but it's been downgraded from the marginal threat category that the weather service forecast early today. As always, don't forget to look out for your family, friends and neighbors during this winter weather and to call your loved ones daily with kindness and cooperation. We'll all get through this together is one team, one mission and one family. Thank you, Governor. As always, we thank you for your leadership Mike and will now take questions from the media. If you can identify yourself and your organization will take the first question Our first question is from Richard Craver with the Winston Salem Journal. Hello, Governor. This is Richard Craver with the with seven journal E. I was gonna ask a question and regain, too, Uh, Cove in 19. And there was evidently a statement put out yesterday from DHHS involving, um, e guess new guidelines for, um, allowing people from other states to come into North Carolina and get vaccination appointments and vaccinations. And I want to see if I could get they Richard to provide a little bit more detail about that reasoning. So first, uh, the vast majority of vaccines are going to North Carolinians that are in North Carolina right now. Uh, the guidance has The federal guidance has just been changed to allow states to beam or restrictive and whether they're going to serve any people who come from out of state. So we have provided that guidance to providers that they can do a little mawr to focus. Uh, mostly on North Carolinians. We have Cody Kinsley, who's the deputy deputy secretary of department, health and human Services with us, and he may want to shed a little more light on that, Cody. Thank you, Governor. on Thank you for the question. Absolutely right that the federal government has recently changed the policy, allowing North Carolina to be a bit more restrictive. But I think what's important to remember is that this is a federal asset and that many of our communities along the border some folks do live, work or get their healthcare in North Carolina, even though they may live on the other side of the border. So some folks may still get their vaccine here. But, as the governor said, it is a very, very low number. Were also, of course, working with our providers to encourage them toe schedule folks that are from North Carolina to partner with local churches or other community based organizations To be sure that those individuals in North Carolina are getting their vaccines here in North Carolina. Thank you. Thanks, Cody. Next question, Our next question is from Christy O Connor with WBTV. Hi there. Um, to follow up on that last question, um, I was wondering, especially with the Charlotte area being right on the border. I was wondering if that would, um impacts the mass vaccination clinics that are held in Charlotte with those, um new guidelines restrict people from South Carolina coming Teoh, a mass vaccination site at Bank of America Stadium or Charlotte Motor Speedway. The vast numbers of people who came to those mass vaccination sites were North Carolinians. But as they continue with mass vaccinations in the Charlotte area, providers can tweak their, uh, guidance to people to make sure they focus mawr on North Carolinians. As Cody says, I don't think you want toe force people, not Thio. Get a vaccine here as it is a federal asset. But providers now we're going to spend more time trying to make sure they are focusing on North Carolina North Carolinians. This includes a max mass vaccinations and vaccinations and every other place that we're providing the vaccine. Next question. Please come on. Our next question is from Dawn Bond with the News and Observer in service from coaches. There's a petition in a bill about high school outdoor sports capacity and how that's ah numeric limit and not percentage like college and professional football. Or so can that be changed in the next executive order to have a similar percentage with facing limits and then also on SB 37 You said that you won't sign it, and I guess it's about nine days or less. Um, will you let it become law? And what should school systems do? In the meantime, there are boats there for an override. Thanks for those questions, Dawn. First, I understand parents wanting to come and see their students at ball games. I remember playing high school basketball and football and see my parents up there every time along with my grandparent's. So I know how much that means. You heard earlier that our numbers are improving, which is good. Uh, we're a long way from being out of the woods here. We need people to continue toe, wear a mask and social distance and get their vaccines as soon as they can and as soon as their turn comes up. But we're feeling Mawr positive about the situation, and this executive order runs out at the end of the month, and you'll hear from us next week regarding a new executive order. That's one of the issues that health officials are looking at. The desire to increase the number of Spectators at events. Uh, we got to keep the health and safety of North Carolinians as the number one priority. But we do understand people wanting Thio be a part of these events, and so that's something that the health experts are working on there, looking at the data there, talking to people in other states and other states. They're talking to the C. D. C. And and hopefully we will see some changes in that area when we make the announcement on the new executive order next week. As I mentioned earlier, I think that the legislation fails on two areas. Number one. It allows schools to put students back in the classroom in violation of the Department of Health and Human Services guidelines. Uh, specifically, it allows them to put middle and high school students back in the classroom without social distance. See, that's one problem that I have with the legislation that I told the Legislature, and secondly, it hampers state and local officials from being able to respond to an emergency. Supposed this variant causes significant problems, and you have in the Legislature in the legislation that students still have to be in person in the classroom and you take away the authority of state and local officials to be able to respond to those emergencies has not a good thing. I want our students back in the classroom. That's why I stood here 16 days ago along with the superintendent of public instruction, along with the chair of the State Board of Education, and said, We need our Children back in the classroom. We need to do it safely safely. We need to follow the guidelines, but they need to be back. And a lot of school systems have responded to that. And as I mentioned earlier by by mid March oh, so will be close to covering 90% of the students being back in the in person classes. I consign alleged piece of legislation with those two requirements, that the guidelines be followed and that the local and state emergency authority not be hampered. So I would hope that they could send another piece of legislation or just let this run its course, because I think most of the local school boards are taking action here and a lot of people talk about the importance of local control. Local control is important. Next question, please. We will follow up dawns on news in the server. Hi. Thanks. for the follow up. Um, you said that you know, they'll be more by been March 95 but then that still leaves those. Haven't, um would you do in order or some sort of action Thio, get those other schools toe open under plan B, which has the distance thing and then with the vaccine shipment delays this week, Do we know how many Pfizer vaccines have arrived this week? Some of the Pfizer vaccines have arrived. I don't think the Madonna has I'm gonna call on Cody for for that, but I'll continue to talk with legislative leaders about the potential of another piece of legislation that would, uh, cure both of these concerns that I have with the present legislation. And in the meantime, I'm going to continue to encourage local boards to get Children back in the classroom following the guidelines that the Department of Health and Human Services has has set out. Uh, Cody, I'll let you address the vaccine shipment issue. Thanks for the question. Um, none of the Madonna vaccine has arrived in North Carolina, but about half of the Pfizer vaccine has arrived either yesterday or we expect it to arrive today. we have that list. The federal government provided it to us, and we can release it and provide that to you as well s so you can see which places are receiving the vaccine. Thank you. Thank you. Next question. Question is from David Ford, W f d D. Thank you, David, for WFUV. During last week's press conference, Dr Korn mentioned that the department have developed a process to investigate any, um, egregious violations of the prioritization protocols. Can one of you tell us more about how that process works? And one of the, uh, repercussions, I guess, for providers found violating the guidelines, uh, the number one priority of this administration is getting the vaccines out quickly and equitably. We want the providers to follow the guidelines and the groups that we have set out, and we do not want, uh, egregious, egregious violations of that. But I'll let Cody talk about what the department has done. Thank you for the question. It's absolutely correct. Our guidance is that right now we're in phase one, and we believe, and that all of the providers in North Carolina are working incredibly hard to serve those individuals. Um, and you've heard us say that there are times when if you're getting to the bottom of the vile and you can't find the person in that phase to get a vaccine, you need to try to have a wait list or you need to call someone that could come in and get that vaccine. But for those times where folks are egregiously or intentionally stepping out of the phase, we want toe, learn about that and hopefully work with those providers to get them back into compliance. Toe do the right thing that we're doing for North Carolinians on. Then we will take into account their allocations if we need to. If they continue to step out of phase unnecessarily. We look at many factors when we're doing allocations population on. Then, of course, very importantly, if folks were serving people in the phase and then also making sure that we're meeting our targets and goals for serving people in historically marginalized populations. So our allocations or a way that we can help make sure that all of our providers air compliant with the current phase and expectations, Thank you. Next question police. Our next question is from Ashley Tally with WRL Thanks for taking my call, Governor. Two questions to follow up on the two most recent questions. One is along with us. The recent Senate and House bill. The past is the newly proposed, um, family choice Summer Family Choice Learning Bill. Do you support that, um, in bringing more Children into summer school to help make up for the learning they may have lost. And then my second question is, um, about the vaccine roll out. We're hearing that while a lot of first doses were canceled, second doses for some were moved up, and I wanted to ask Cody if that was because of, um, trying to get people in where they do have the Pfizer vaccine. Now. Thank you. Thank you. Um, I believe that a number of Children have struggled with remote learning. I wanna praise teachers and parents and the students who've worked so hard Thio to make it work during this time. But we know and one of the reasons I'm pushing to get Children back in the classroom in person is because, uh, remote learning hasn't worked for a number of kids. So if we can provide opportunities for them to catch up for them to get additional instruction, then I think that's positive. I know that the legislation that's being considered in the House now is being shopped around to educators across the state, and people are having input. We look forward to having some input into that legislation. Eso I think the idea is a good one, but we have to see the specifics of the legislation, and I'll let Cody address the vaccine issue. Thank you, Governor, and thank you for the question. So it's important to remember that vaccine doses arrive in the state out of certain schedule. So second doses arrive in North Carolina, usually on Thursdays and Fridays, and first doses arrive on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. So a lot of the second dose appointments that are planned for this week had already arrived in the state at the end of last week, which enables providers to move forward and providing those second doses, which is great news. We want folks to be getting their second doses, and right now of those that are eligible for their second dose is 98% of folks have completed the Siri's. We have over 600,000 North Carolinians that have completed the full tudo Siri's. So that's really great news for us. A za tool to fight the Cove in 19. We also know that earlier on we were off to a slower start on first doses. We've cleared that backlog, and now North Carolina and North Carolina providers are providing vaccine Justus quick as it comes into the state. But because we're a little behind for the first couple of weeks, there's a few extra second doses on the shelf that we're continuing to give to people that are ready. So that's why folks were able to go ahead and keep getting their second doses this week. First and foremost, we want people to be safe, of course, but try to keep their appointments. Thank you. Next question, please. Our next question is from Claire Donnelly with W F A. Hi, Governor. Clear Donnelly from wftv. Thanks for taking my question. Um, you mentioned that health officials are considering increasing the number of Spectators at some events with the next executive order. I'm wondering what else they're considering as faras loosening restrictions. Well, the state of North Carolina has put health and safety of North Carolinians as the first priority since the beginning of this pandemic. And we now have a stay at home order. Uh, we have occupancy restrictions in some places, retail establishments throughout the state, All of the restrictions that air in place. Now the gathering limits others. All of these are on the table to be considered, and health officials are examining the data on looking at the science and talking to people in other states. And they'll continue to look at our numbers during the coming weeks. And I think all of the restrictions that we have on the table are gonna be considered as we look at the next executive order. One thing I know, though, is going to continue to be important for us to wear mass and to social distance and don't, uh, gather into big crowds. And these are the things that we know can spread this virus, and we want people to continue doing that. But will we? And we know that there will be continued restrictions in place in order to protect the people. But we'll be announcing what what changes are coming next week. Next question, please. We have a follow up. Claire Donnelly, W F A. Thanks eso I was also wondering, given that the state is still getting limited supplies of vaccine. Um, do you anticipate having to break off another smaller segment of Group three to start getting vaccinated on March 10th like you have to do with educators and school staff? And then who would be in that smaller group? We right now are still vaccinating healthcare workers, people who are 65 over and still a lot of people to vax vaccinate in that area. And I think Cody, I look today and the number was 642,000 people that we have completed the Siri's and that's great news. And we have AH lot Mawr vaccine coming and a lot more people getting vaccinated. Our educators will begin on February the 24th on, then on March the 10th are other frontline essential workers. I think what the department is going to do is to work with the providers and see how the process of working with educators goes, and to learn some things about that before any decisions are made about the frontline essential workers March 10th, would you say that's right? Cody thinks That's right. Okay. Next question, please. Our final question today will be from Tina Terry with WSOC. Hey, there, this is Thine is here with WSOC. Thank you for taking my question. Um, the weather's impact on Kobe 19 shipments. How is that impacting people who have a second dose is scheduled? Um, it sounds as if there might not be a great impact on those based on something that Cody said earlier. But I want to clarify that. And the other question I have is will be shipment delays impact, or could they possibly impact your decision to move on with teachers and school staff and group three next week? Um, it sounds like that That may not have an impact based on what the governor just said, but I just want to clarify that that's not Thank you. Obviously, I and governors and a lot of other states are very frustrated about the weather delays for the VAX vaccines that are coming into our state. I don't think the delays will be so much that it would affect anything in our stages, but I'll let Cody address the rest of the question. Thank you. We're watching this very carefully and working with our providers are guidance right now to providers is to get folks in as soon as they can. Once they have noticed that the shipments are coming. And and I think we'll see. Right now we have a two day, 2.5 day delay, and we'll see if that stretches out to make sure it informs what choices we have to make about guidance for providers. But that's still in evolving space. Um, second doses, you're right for most providers. Second doses have arrived at the end of last week. So for second dose appointments that were scheduled this week, many of them will be able to go forward. Now, of course, uh, some events, because because of whether that's happening in our state, may have to be canceled and rescheduled for other reasons as well. And that's why our top priority is people being safe. But then getting folks in for their second dose or their first dose just a soon as possible. Thanks. And I think there's a follow up there is. This is a team Syrian just wanted Thio for clarity, Um, on one of the questions someone asked earlier last week, you said you were working on protocols to help prevent people who are not teachers and school staff from fraudulently showing up to be vaccinated when Group three vaccinations begin next week. Have you come up with any protocols that would prevent that or penalized individuals? Not the provider, but the individuals who were trying to make fraud? Thank you. Thanks for the question. I think first and foremost, we believe North Carolinians want to do the right thing, and we want providers and all North Carolinians toe come together and make sure that folks get vaccinated when it is their phase. But there are strategies that help us make sure that the right folks in the phase get the vaccine when it is their turn on. We're seeing some of those already now providers air reaching out and offering appointments. They're partnering with local churches or local community based organizations. Toe. Make sure that they're getting access for folks there historically marginalized populations or and especially folks over 65 health care workers that are known to them. So when we move to our child care workers to teachers to other school personnel, uh, clearly there are very great partnerships at the local level. We know who those people are. We can work locally between vaccine providers and the school district's to make sure that people are scheduled accordingly. On this is what makes it a great group for us to be able to learn about how to operationalize this in a smart way and make sure that folks air coming in when it's their turn. Thank you. Thanks, everybody, for being with us today. Stay safe. Mhm. I don't know. Okay?