Cooper requiring workers in NC cabinet agencies to be vaccinated
Gov. Roy Cooper and state health and safety officials provide a July 29, 2021, update on the coronavirus pandemic in North Carolina and the state's response to it.
seven cases, 3268 New cases reported since yesterday, 1141 people in the hospital and sadly 13,618 people have died today. Dr Mandy Cohen will give a detailed update on our state's numbers, trends and vaccinations. But before we share updates, I wanted to acknowledge to people who are participating in their final briefing today, our secretary of public safety eric hooks and our Director of Emergency management mike spray berry. Both of these men have dedicated their lives and served with distinction to protect north Carolinians and I am really grateful for their service. So on behalf of the Thank State, we thank you guys very, very much. Secretary hooks and director spray berry along with others have supported our efforts to create hope, which is a rental and utility assistance program that's gotten hundreds of millions of dollars out to landlords and utilities to help hard hit low income tenants stay in their homes with the lights on. So please remember if Covid has hit you in the pocketbook so that you can't pay rent or utilities apply for help through the hope program. As you'll see after months of low numbers are trends have turned sharply in the wrong directions. I want to be clear about why unvaccinated people are driving this resurgence and getting themselves and other people sick people who are unvaccinated make up most all of our cases where people are getting sick and hospitalized, The delta variant of covid is even more contagious to those who are not vaccinated. Doesn't matter your age or your race. If you are not vaccinated, you are at great risk. We're hearing from doctors about people in the ICU begging for the vaccine right before they put on a ventilator by then it's too late. So here is my message to anyone who has yet to get up shot. Get a vaccine today. Don't wait until you or a family member is sick and going on a ventilator. Don't wait until we run out of hospital beds. Don't wait until skyrocketing numbers threaten to shut businesses or cancel sports. Don't wait until you infect somebody you love get a vaccine today. The vaccines are safe, effective, free and available in every community and this vaccine could save your life. This virus is now much more contagious and spreading fast and it will find you if your unvaccinated. I'll now ask Dr Mandy Cohen, our secretary of the north Carolina Department of Health and Human Services to provide us with an update on our key trends. Dr Cohen, Thank you governor. It's been some time since we've gone through our trends and our metrics. But with the rapid rise in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, we wanted to make sure North Carolinians have a clear picture of the viral spread in the state and what's driving it. So let's dive in this first graph looks at people who come to the emergency department with covid like symptoms. These are earliest detection mechanism. And you can see when looking at the yellow line that it's been trending up since the end of june, it's still below the blue line, which is where we were a year ago, but it's moving in the wrong direction. Next we look at new cases and in this first graph shows you the trajectory of new cases each day since we had our first case back in March of 2020. The large peak you see happened in early january before vaccines were widely available. But the area to look at today is at the right side of the slide where we're starting to see that yellow line rapidly swing upwards Today. As the governor said, we had more than 3000 cases the last time we had more than 3000 cases in 24 hours was back in February. I want you to notice the slope of the yellow line and you can see that this rise in cases is faster than what we have seen with past increases. This is because the covid virus is now much, much more contagious than it was earlier. Let's zoom in to get a better sense of the rate of increase in the cases that have happened just in the last few weeks. On this graph, we're looking at cases from the end of May through today and you can see a clear picture that our cases have increased rapidly. Here's another way to think about how things have changed so fast. The original COVID spread from one person to an average of 2- three people. Now the delta variant spreads from one person to an average of six people and nearly all of that spread is happening amongst people who are not vaccinated Since early May. North Carolina cases are in 92% of people who are not fully vaccinated. Next we look at the percent of tests that are positive. This graph also goes back to the end of May and looking at the yellow line are percent of positive tests is increasing rapidly and is now well above our threshold of 5%. On our next graph, we look at day over day hospitalizations. This graph also starts at the end of May and you can see looking at that yellow line and that steep slope up. That this trend has increased rapidly. And now we surpass 1100 people in the hospital with covid. This number has more than doubled in just two weeks and has been the fastest increase we've seen since the pandemic started. Like cases nearly all hospitalizations are people who are not fully vaccinated. And while we're seeing increases in all age groups, admissions have increased by 200% for people ages 50-59 in the past week. Now this last saw next slide looks at what's happening at the local level. This map is from the C. D. C. And shows the level of community viral transmission. Red is high, oranges, substantial yellow is yellow is moderate and blue is low and you can see that much of north Carolina is red and orange with high or substantial viral spread. We do not have empty any blue counties. This next slide shows why this moment is different from the last time we were experiencing rising trends, vaccines are now widely available across the state. The highest rates of viral spread are happening in areas with low vaccination rates. And among again those who are not fully vaccinated. As you can see 55% of North Carolinians who can be vaccinated. Those 12 and older are fully vaccinated and while we've made progress that's still well below where we need to be to end this pandemic. Some counties are much lower. About two thirds of counties in the state have less than half of their 12 and older population, fully vaccinated bottom line. This is a moment of rapid viral spread, driven by a highly contagious virus finding and infecting those who are still unvaccinated. If you haven't gotten vaccine vaccinated yet, I urge you to do so now to protect yourself and your community. Getting vaccinated, prevent serious illness, hospitalization and death and in slows community spread of this virus, rigorous clinical trials among thousands of people ages 12 and older have proven that vaccines are safe and effective. More than 160 million Americans have been safely vaccinated. Today. We're updating our guidance to respond to this current context and our guidance is clear. If you are not vaccinated, you need to continue to practice the three Ws. Where a mask in, in in all indoor public settings. Wait 6ft apart in all public settings and wash your hands often. In addition, if you're not vaccinated, you should not gather with unvaccinated people who you do not live with. If you do please stay outside and keep six ft apart. Also, if you're not vaccinated, you also should not travel. They're also still places where everyone in the state still needs to wear a mask, settings like health care and public transportation, large crowded indoor venues and indoor places with a large number of Children. The takeaway from all of this is there's only one way out of this pandemic and that is vaccination. I am thankful to the numerous health systems that are leading the way and requiring vaccinations to protect their health care workers, their patients in our communities and the state, we at the Department of Health and Human Services are following their lead and the recommendation of the nation's leading medical organizations, including the American Medical Association, the american nurses association and DHS will be requiring that all employees working at our state operated health care facilities be fully vaccinated. And I want to thank the 76% of our staff members who already are fully vaccinated. This moment requires action Are trends are accelerating at an alarmingly fast rate because of the highly contagious delta variant. If you are already vaccinated, I call on you to urge your unvaccinated family and friends to get their shot. Now it's not an understatement to say that you will save lives by doing so. Take a moment and listen to what doctors from across our state have to say about the urgency to get vaccinated. Right now. We really are worried that this delta variant is going to find everyone who's not protected. The fact that this is more infectious, causing worse outcomes and spread like wildfire in the United States. I don't believe this is a wait and see period. It's time to really roll those sleeves up and get those shots. There are more people dying this week than it was last week. Our rates of hospitalizations are going up. The people that are losing their lives are the people that are unvaccinated. And the good news we know is that the vaccines we have effective against this variant and against preventing serious infections In those who do get the delta variance. These vaccines are safe. They are effective and they're necessary for us to try to get back to normal. Look, you're rolling the dice, you're playing roulette with with this and the longer and longer you wait, the more and more likely that you are to get this and can suffer really severe consequences from it. Yeah. Everyone from teens to seniors can get a covid 19 vaccine. Visit my spot dot n c dot go. Vaccinations are our way out of this pandemic. Don't wait to vaccinate. Thank you governor. Thank you Dr Cohen and the leadership of your team. This is discouraging. It's not the update we wanted to bring today. One thing I do know is that many vaccinated people are frustrated and mad. You've been doing your part first with masks and distancing and then with getting your shot. Thank you for stepping up to do the right thing for yourself and your community. I'd ask you to step up once more and channel that frustration toward pushing your unvaccinated family and friends to do the right thing and get the shot. You may be the most important messengers we have until more people get back. The vaccine will continue living with the very real threat of a serious disease. We will continue to see more dangerous and contagious variants like the delta variant in north Carolina. We are issuing a new executive order and guidance aimed at slowing the spread among the unvaccinated and encouraging more people to get their shots. This order directs state government cabinet agencies to verify whether they're employees are vaccinated. Unvaccinated employees will be tested at least once a week and required to wear a mask. We are strongly urging other state government agencies and private businesses to at a minimum do the same. Many businesses are going a step further and requiring their employees to get vaccinated. And I applaud that we are at a crossroads in this pandemic and we need the private sector to help us increase vaccine rates. Right now. Being a good corporate citizen means getting your people vaccinated. Our economy depends on it. In addition to our health and you know this week the C. D. C. Updated its guidance and we are recommending people in north Carolina. Follow these health protocols. The first relates to schools. In accordance with the C. D. C. We recommend that all K. Through 12 schools require masks for all their students and teachers and second going forward. Everyone in a county with high rates of virus spread, including those who have been vaccinated is encouraged to wear a mask in public indoor settings like we are today And for North Carolina, that's already 80% of our counties. So what's the bottom line here? It's simple. Get a vaccine now. It will protect you and prevent future variants like delta that could emerge to threaten our health and the economic recovery. Do it for yourself. Do it for your family. Do it for kids under 12 who can't get a vaccine yet. Do it today. I know that hearing these messages is alarming. Everyone hoped we'd be past this by now, including me. But until more people get vaccinated, this is the reality we have to confront and our state will continue to battle this pandemic by increasing our vaccination rates. That's the only sure way out of this thing with me today is our Secretary of public Safety eric cooks and our Director of Emergency management, mike spray, berry, brian tipton and david pain our, our sign language interpreters and behind the scenes at Jackie and jasmine vetiver, our spanish language interpreters. We have people in the room today who are pressed and if you'll take the side mics and I'll be glad to take the first question. We also have some online and we'll take some of those in a minute. Yes. Hi Governor brian Anderson here with the ap uh, at the last I just want to clarify is the statewide mask mandate lapsing on friday. Yes, it is. Businesses know what to do. People know what to do. Schools know what to do when it comes to masks and we're encouraging everybody to follow the CDC guidelines that's just been put out where we are going to focus is getting more people vaccinated At the time of the guidance. Last week. Over the prior two weeks, cases Had gone up, 70%. Hospitalizations have doubled at that time. Was it a mistake to issue that guidance? What? I'm sorry, what the last week for schools saying high school students don't need to wear masks in some cases. So yeah, we have today updated that guidance and have conformed to the CDC guidance That schools should require K through 12 students and teachers to wear mass Last one, you just pointed to a skyrocketing of cases and hospitalizations. Uh you've repeatedly said you're making data driven decisions at a time when all metrics are showing the worst metrics and months. Why? And this statewide mask mandate because schools know what to do business know what to do. People know what to do. We are encouraging everyone to wear masks as per the CDC guidelines, but we know the real way out of this is vaccines. And this is why we're issuing the strong executive order today requiring verification of vaccines from state employees and encouraging businesses and other state agencies to do the same. Many businesses are stepping up, the federal government stepping up. This is the way to get through this one quick question for Dr. Cohen and the masking policies for K-12 students. Uh, we've seen 19 districts according to education and see analysis say that they are going to make masks optional for all K to 12 students, which would include those under 12. What are you going to do to combat that if anything? Well, I think we've been very clear in our toolkit that all school districts should require masks in everyone, students and teachers from Kindergarten to 12th grade. I think we've just gone through that are trends are moving in the wrong direction. We know that our students under the age of 12 do not have the ability to get vaccinated. We need to protect them and make sure that our kids can be in the classroom safely. We want kids in the classroom and we can do it safely when we use the protocols that are in those uh, that, that tool kit, you know, all along, we've worked with the Department of Public instruction, with the Board of Education, with superintendents in schools. And so we're going to make sure that they have all the support they need to implement those safety protocols and keep our kids safe. Thank you. Thank you. Yeah. Hi Don ponder the News and Observer. Um, so with the schools, does that mean that the tool kits updated today and well maybe change in the future with CDC guidance? And if it's um, I mean brian, I guess it already gotten clarification on this about it being up to the school district still. Um, can you explain why now is the time for the response to be um, at the local level versus statewide level for both the school policies and anything dealing with um, the CDC guidance about hotspots and everything first. Yes. We have conformed our school guidance and are saying that school boards should require K through 12 students and teachers to get to wear a mask in school and and look um, we know that the landscape has changed back when we were doing all of the statewide restrictions and mandating. We really did not have vaccines in place now, vaccines are everywhere and this is where we need to concentrate. However, I'm going to ask these local school boards who have voted some a few weeks ago to make mass optional to look at this again. I mean, look at where the numbers are. Look at where the numbers are in your county and think about the danger that students could face. I think very few states now have a statewide mask mandate and most, most of the states are looking at the local districts to make these decisions, but we have provided them with excellent guidance that I believe is strong. And I think at the end of the day, the majority of the students will be covered by what we're doing here. Would you have anything to add to that? Okay. And follow um on the on the state employees, those outside your your cabinet agencies. Is that up to the particular Council of State head? Is that what where's where's the authority there if um with any sort of other vaccination verification through for state employees I guess. Is it per department per agency? How how does that work? My authority extends to cabinet agencies, but independently elected Council of State members would have to make their own decisions about whether they would follow this. I hope this will be like our parental leave for employees uh system that we put in place, which I think was very positive. Uh Many other council of State, the community colleges universities all started doing it. I hope that community colleges Universities, Council of State will start doing this as well verifying that employees are vaccinated, making sure that those who are unvaccinated or tested at least once a week and are required to wear a mask. I think this will encourage more state employees to get vaccinated and we're going to continue to to push this forward and hope it expands across the state. Hope that uh many other private businesses who haven't adopted this yet will adopt it quick follow um with why um with the vaccination verification and then adding, you know, this hurdle or I guess incentive or disincentive um why not mandated beyond those? Um you know the state run facilities that are already mandated And is the FDA not giving final approval yet a factor? So we we want to make sure that we are pushing people toward vaccination using the tools that we have dr. Cool. And you might want to talk about the difference with health care facilities. Thanks Don. I do think that when we look at our health care facilities, this is a different circumstance where we have a responsibility not only to our our workforce but to those who are medically frail that we are caring for each and every day. Um, and that is why we are following the lead of the american Medical Association, the american nurses Association and our own hospital systems here and saying we have to use the strongest tool we have, which is vaccinations to protect our staff and to protect um, the folks that we care for in our, in our health care facilities. I do think it is a unique um, space where um, there is a high risk of transmissibility as well as folks who are medically frail and very vulnerable. Thank you. Yes. Hi. It's Jason de bruin with north Carolina public radio. You kind of touched on this already a little bit. But I wonder if you could maybe go into some detail about the conversations that you had uh, as to deciding to go with a verification as opposed to a vaccine requirement for for these uh you know, for the Cabinet um state employees. Well, this is a big step requiring proof from state employees that they have been vaccinated. And we wanted to make that step. We believe that this will encourage a lot more state employees to get vaccinated. So we want to make this step. I think a lot of people are seeing more and more that this delta variant is a big problem. I visit vaccination centers every week, I've talked to a number of people uh both hearing stories from doctors but also talking to them, myself and many people are recognizing and believing that this delta variant is a monster and they want to get vaccinated. So I think this is gonna push us there. I mean there are a lot of options that are on the table into the future, but this is a good step for us to take right now. You might not have this off the top of your head. But do you have a percentage of the number of Cabinet agency state employees who are vaccinated? Uh not sure about that. And that's one of the reasons why we're going to get this information to get verification, but it will affect about around 50,000 state employees. Uh this verification. Some agencies have been asking people whether they are vaccinated but we want to get this verification in place so that we know and remember this is to protect other state employees is to protect customers that may come into state employee agencies and to get this pandemic behind us. That's that's why we're doing it. And then the last one um you referenced vaccinated people who are increasingly getting perhaps even angry at the unvaccinated. What do you say to those people who are vaccinated and perhaps getting frustrated as to why you're not mandating vaccination and just verifying if there is a vaccination? Well, I think we're all in this together. I understand the frustration and anger that vaccinated people feel because particularly now this spike that's coming and the inconvenience and sickness and death that comes with it. I think we've all got to pull together to do this. We still have options that are potential out out there. But this is an important step that will get us more people vaccinated. And that is what I'm working to do. David Larson North State Journal. Um, you're talking about whether the mask or not mask, um, uh, in schools and encouraging, uh, districts to have their students mask. Is there any clear data on, you know, whether students in school? Um, younger people are a significant uh community spread of the virus. I think the delta variant has shown a pick up there, but I'm gonna let dr cohen address that. Thanks. What we have seen is that when we use our safety protocols that we've been using and we've had a number of researchers that have published their studies that if we when we use those safety protocols are schools are very low transmission. Um, spaces, which is good. It's why we want to encourage in person school. We think it's incredibly important. Um, but it is when you're using those safety protocols, which is when you're able to keep the viral spread low, I will say, you know, as a governor alluded to were now in this new moment, right? Delta is more contagious, not just for adults, but for Children as well. We're seeing more cases in our kids, um, than we had before. And so we want to make sure that folks are following those protocols in order to keep those viral levels low, make sure the kids can stay in the classroom. And um, you showed up some charts showing that out this for secretary Cohen, I guess as well, but um, showing that the delta variant was leading uptick in cases it's higher transmissibility and also increase in hospitalizations. Is there any lowering in uh, mortality from from this? I've heard mixed things on that. Is it is it I didn't see a slide on that, but is it uh, less deadly than the original covid? So it's a great question. So what we know for sure is that the delta variant is more contagious. We're getting many more cases. Um, and we know that from those cases, there's going to be a percentage of folks who get hospitalized in a percentage of the hooks that unfortunately, um, the virus is so severe that they die. So the more cases you can, you can predict more hospitalizations and unfortunately more death do I think it is, it is more dangerous. I don't think we know that for sure, but because of the high rate of contagiousness, we're going to have so many more cases. And so I think we will see more hospitalizations and more death. But I don't know that um, in and of itself. Um, it is more deadly. But I would say one of the other reasons why we all need to get vaccinated because I don't want this virus to change again. I think a combo very contagious and very more deadly. That's the worst combination right now. We know we have more contagious, um, we know how to, we know how to fight against that. I worry if we put those two together with this virus keeps changing. It's the other reason why we all need to get vaccinated. Last thing has has the mortality though increased with the other two statistics? Or is it Is it not increased at the same rate? So what I would say is that we're at a very different place in terms of mortality on on a few fronts. One is we have treatment which we didn't have a year ago. So we do have monoclonal antibodies and one of the things we are trying to do from our department and work with our health systems is making sure that patients and doctors know that monoclonal antibodies are available. It needs to be used in the 1st 10 days when someone has symptoms. Um, and so I think that that that is great. And so we do have a treatment. Um it is something that needs to be administered in a healthcare setting. So it's not a pill, it's not something you can order and pick up at a pharmacy. Um So we want to make sure folks know that that is available. We've also learned a lot about how to treat folks who do have severe covid new protocols on how to treat them too prone them meaning putting them on their belly, um and how to how to use oxygen in different ways. So I think we've gotten a lot smarter. Um and our our doctors have done a great job. So I think overall we've seen the mortality rate, meaning the number of people dying from covid, um going going down over time. But unfortunately, you know, you see every day are our definite numbers do go up. So this is still a deadly disease and I think that's why we're taking the steps we are today. Thank you. I had a question first related to um for the state government employees, how long do they have until they need to get vaccinated or to start doing the regular testing And then what consequences does anyone face if they don't comply, it will become effective on september the first. So we know that there is some ramp up time for cabinet agencies to get the verification program in place and get there Rules together. And so that would happen on September one. And then what consequences do employees space if they don't comply with something? Yeah, that's something to be determined. What what we hope and believe is that this will encourage more people to get vaccinated. But those who don't will have to wear a mask and we'll have to get tested and if they refuse to do that, then there will be some consequences to that. But that's something that we're going to be working out with human resource officers uh in the Cabinet agencies in the coming days. I want to get your thoughts about one other thing I was talking to a doctor at Duke earlier this week. He told me he's concerned about some kind of mandates in place. Ultimately, what we're gonna end up seeing is the communities with the higher vaccination rates that have generally been cautious throughout the pandemic. They are going to institute the rules to put on masks and to do the mandates the community with lower vaccination rates where the virus is spreading more. They won't. Are you concerned that's going to be the scenario we're gonna see going forward. I I certainly am concerned about that. We are particularly concerned about our areas with lower vaccination rates because bad things happen when a lower percentage of the population is vaccinated. That's why we is not vaccinated. And that's why we are putting so much of an emphasis on vaccinations, concentrating on some of these areas sending out mobile units helping them in many ways. And dr cool. And you may want to talk about some of those lower vaccination counties and what we're doing with them. Sure one I I do want to say before I dive into that to say obviously this virus doesn't care about county lines um but it does care about low vaccination rates. Um And that is what we are very much focused on. Um areas of our state where we see lower vaccination rates. We already see higher rates of viral spread. So we are already deploying resources everything from testing. I was speaking about monoclonal antibodies um to communications help um and making sure of course that they have a lot of points of access for vaccination. Um so that we we know where this is going to be an issue. Our map already shows that um that we know that for example in the sand hills area of our state we have low vaccination rates and we're seeing higher rates of virus spread. We're starting to see that in the charlotte Mecklenburg area actually in the surrounding counties um from from charlotte. Um So we are prepositioning resources knowing that this virus is going to track to where there are low vaccination areas. I had one other quick question for you dr cohen we saw last week at least based on the preliminary data, a pretty significant increase in the number of first doses of the vaccine people were receiving. We hadn't really seen anything like that in a few months since more people became eligible. Do you think it's concerned about the delta variant that's primarily driving that at this point? Well, I hope they're hearing our message. Um Well, I think we've been very clear um that this is a pandemic now of the unvaccinated. They are at risk. This virus is contagious and it will find them. And so I hope they are hearing our message. Um they need to get vaccinated right away. I also think our schools are doing a very good job of doing some back to school work. Um And I was just yesterday, for example, visiting Wake med. They said they opened up a back to school vaccination clinic and it filled up like that, which is great to hear. Um and so I'm hoping as we go into that back to school time and folks are getting ready for school that those students who are over the age of 12 and eligible for the Pfizer vaccine get their vaccine as soon as possible. Thank you. I said one last quick question for governor cooper regarding the testing for the state employees, How much money have you set aside to that? What is that going to cost the state to do the regular testing to the employees have to take on that cost themselves? We we have testing resources that would be available to do that. There are also outside resources that state employees can use. Would you want to address that dr Cohen? Thanks Michael. As you know, we've been working very hard to make sure that testing, um, and free testing um, is available across the state. We've already um um offered free testing to all of our um school districts to make sure that testing is available for them and it is free. There are many places across the state and with our health department where you can go and get free testing and we will certainly use that infrastructure for state employees as well. Thank you. Uh At the moment the order for businesses particularly is a suggestion. Was there ever the thought of perhaps going beyond that? And while it is just a suggestion, do you have an idea of how many businesses and companies may follow through with that suggestion? It's a strong recommendation that these companies verify vaccination status of their employees and those who are unvaccinated, making sure they wear masks and go through testing. Many private businesses are already doing this and in fact we consulted with them. So we think even more will do it because I think our businesses in north Carolina really want to protect their workforce. I think they want to protect their customers. So I think we're going to see an even more response with this executive order issued with the delta variant on the rise, employers are going to understand that this is a difficult situation. Unlike before where we were having to talk about gathering limits and mask and all those things that can help slow the spread. We have the way to get out of this pandemic and it is a vaccine. So that's where we've got to put our effort right now. And you know, not that all of this is other stuff is noise because it can all be important in keeping people healthy and we want to do things like masks and being careful. But the vaccine is the way to get us through this. And you were talking earlier to governor about the frustration, people have vaccinated unvaccinated. Would you go as far as to say that it is irresponsible at this point to be unvaccinated. I would, I mean ah the evidence is stark and clear that if you don't get vaccinated, not only you're going to cause problems for yourself, you will cause problems for other people. Dr Cohen just talked about the factor of infection. Uh, being one person can spread it to an average of six people with this delta variant. So yes, being a responsible, I think it's responsible. It's patriotic. It's the right thing to do. And not only that, I think it's a responsibility, particularly of our leaders across uh, this state and country for leaders to stand up and say this is important for people to do. I've gotten my vaccine, everybody needs to go out and get a vaccine. That's the way we get our economy Russian back. That's the way we save lives. And this is something that could bring us all together. And I'm sensing more of that over the last couple of weeks. Uh, that, that more people are beginning to realize that this is the way that we can tackle this thing together. And so I'm hoping that that can happen even more over the next few weeks when I got somebody on the line. Okay. Our first question is from Richard Craver of the Winston Salem Journal. Hello Governor. This is Richard Kramer with the Winston Salem Journal. I had a couple quick questions. I guess. One. Um, do you have any timeline for when you expect school districts that who are making mask optional too respond in terms of mandating the mask in the schools? Well, you know, I hope that schools that have taken the, uh, the stand that they're gonna have mask optional will look at this data that is coming down. Well look at the new guidance with the C. D. C. And we'll reconsider because when you're thinking about the safety of students and teachers, uh I think that this is an important step that they can take. So a number of school districts are still making decisions and have meetings next week or the week after. We hope they look at this. We hope that they take advantage of this toolkit. One thing that's so important when we're talking about schools is in person learning. We know we need to have those Children in the classroom and we also know from the data and research that if we take these steps to protect them, like like having mass. That the transmission would be low in our schools and our Children could be protected. So we are, we are pushing hard and hoping that uh, more school systems will do the right thing and require the mass. Try to follow up need to be doing yes. Um, is there any concern about the school districts? Um, this optional masking being too much of a rural urban issue because it seems like you've seen a lot of the urban school districts go to the universal or or requiring demanding mask mandates and you're not seeing that with some of the more rural suburban counties. Well, there have been some rural counties. I believe Anson was one of the first ones to say that there were going to have a mask requirement. So I don't think it totally breaks down that way. We want all school districts and particularly those school districts that have lower vaccination rates, uh, to make sure that their students and teachers are protected. Is there another question? Our next question is from Derek Calendar with Fox 46. Okay, Thank you for taking my question. This is Derek dealing with Fox 46. Uh, attended a school board meeting earlier this week where masks were discussed. Eventually it was made an option. But parents were openly laughing at the idea of getting into vaccine. People have posters up there that said vaccine pills. How much of a fight has it been on the ground level to really counter the narrative from those opposed to the vaccine and trying to get people vaccine, Especially over the last several weeks. Battling disinformation is a part of making sure everybody gets vaccinated and we do that by vaccinated people who are friends with those who are unvaccinated and who are relying on disinformation in their decision making. We want them to be convincing people And we are encouraging people to talk to their doctor. Doctor after Doctor After Doctor will tell you that this delta variant is so much more contagious and you are at risk if you are unvaccinated. I talked to a woman, I think it was in Winston Salem. I asked her, uh, I thanked her for being there and I said, what made you decide to come in now? And one of the reasons was, she said, my doctor told me to get my butt in here. And I think that more doctors were encouraging doctors to proactively reach out to their patients to tell them how important getting this vaccine is. So battling. This information comes from trusted people and from doctors. Do you want anything to that? Are you going okay next question please. We have a follow up Derek Challenger Fox 46 there, David. We'll move on to kate martin with Carolina Public Press. Hi, Governor and Dr Cohen, thank you so much for taking my call. This is kate martin with Carolina public press. Um, I'm hoping we can have a couple of questions. One. How is the Department of an Emergency Emergency Management, still assisting with this effort and with the rising case numbers? Um, are you all expecting to increase um say the National Guards participation also? I'm hoping Dr Cohen can talk in a little bit more detail about the transmissibility of the delta variant and trying to explain to people Who aren't scientists, you know, what does it mean? Uh like say the old virus used to be uh you were in close contact with someone for 15 minutes. Like what is the delta variant number for that? I guess, equivalent. So emergency management is very much involved continuing to work with the Department of Health and Human Services, particularly in the area of vaccinations and a lot of vaccination sites that I've been to. The National Guard has been there uh this morning in Nash County. The nurse told me we couldn't have done it without the National Guard. They provide so much expertise and help and glad that we were able to make them available. But uh we'll have mike spray bury our Director of Emergency Management. Talk a little bit about more about what the department is doing. Thank you governor and thank you for the question. That's correct. The Emergency Management will work to support the Department of Health and Human Services and Secretary Cohen with any support that's requested. And we also want to be supporting our county partners at the local level with coordination of the National Guard to get our National Guard partners down range to help with vaccination clinics. And we really want to penetrate uh those counties where they have a high rate of vaccine hesitancy. So we've had people out knocking on doors trying to find those people. We want to help people that have transportation issues. So we're working to get all types of resources to try to really get the word out that you need to go ahead and get your vaccination. That's the only way that we're gonna bust this pandemic. So we do stand ready. We will continue to uh stay decisively engaged in the fight against this pandemic with our partners of the Department of Health and Human Services and our uh they're great secretary of mandy Cohen. Hi kate, thanks for asking about the transmissibility of this new delta variant. Um what we've been talking about is we know that this virus now is a new virus. It is much more contagious than what we were even seeing just a few months ago back in april. We didn't have the delta variant and now nearly every single case is a delta variant that just shows how quickly it is moving. It is by far the most dominant variant um that we have seen thus far. I I shared um a stat before that maybe can help folks understand this a little bit better. Prior if you call it the original covid um If you got covid you'd be able to spread it to about 2 to 3 people. On average, sometimes zero people, sometimes many more, but on average 2 to 3 people now, what we're seeing the delta variant is that one person is spreading it to six people. Um So it's much more contagious than what we've seen before. I will go back to our team to see if there's an equivalent on the, if you're within so many feet for so much time. If that has changed. I haven't seen that that specifically change yet. I think the same things continue to hold in terms of how this virus gets transmitted. It goes through the air. It is more contagious when you are indoors, when you are close together for a prolonged period of time. Except now it is infecting even more people. So we know that that that this is um more and more contagious. I think that's why our concern level continues to go up. Um and we know that it is really the unvaccinated folks who are at the highest risk. As again we've been saying over and over. Most of these cases are from folks who are unvaccinated, which is why Please don't wait get your vaccine today. Next question please. Our next question is from and all towns W. F. A. Thank you. Um, I have to have a two part question first is could you clarify whether this vaccination verification mandate applies to teachers and other school based state employees and if not why not? Well, first, uh, at this time it would not because it's only effective by my executive order to cabinet agencies. Uh local school districts could begin that process and all employers throughout the state. Whether it be council of state members, whether it be private businesses could begin this process of vaccine verification. And in fact we hope that they do because that's an important step to get more people vaccinated but also to make sure that those who are unvaccinated or masking and continually getting tests which will protect other employees and customers. Next question, a final question that will conclude today's media briefing will be from Travis saying with Rebel Dorio. No question. And we'll conclude today's everything with the travesty with them right now. Oh thank you. Are you Travis you're on? Oh right. Mhm. Much time should I cut him off? All right, sorry I missed that. We'll try to get back with you uh through the press office. Thank you all for coming today. We appreciate it. Mm.