Cohen discusses decision to step down, praises successor
Gov. Roy Cooper and state health and safety officials provide a Nov. 30, 2021, update on the coronavirus pandemic in North Carolina and the state's response to it.
A. We have had 1,534,005 COVID cases 1755 New cases reported since yesterday 1,131 people in the hospital 18,740 people who have died. As we mark our second holiday season of the pandemic. We're fortunate that this year's thanksgiving look different from last year's thanksgiving. Thanks to remarkable COVID-19 vaccines and the millions of North Carolinians who got them families and friends were able to gather more safely this year sharing hugs and good food. Thanksgiving this year did feel more normal but we're all painfully aware that we haven't fully defeated this pandemic. The delta variant is still with us causing sickness and death mostly among the unvaccinated. While health alerts about the emerging omicron variant have caused concerned and opened a new set of questions. As the scientists and public health experts race to get answers about the new variant. We still note this to be 100% true. Getting more people vaccinated is the way out of this pandemic. If you haven't been vaccinated and you're worried about the omicron variant. Get your shot today. If you want to make your christmas gathering safer get your shot today these vaccines are safe effective and they're free and they're saving lives every minute of every day by preventing people from getting severe covid symptoms that could land them in the I. C. U. Are worse and if you don't believe it. Get off the internet and on the phone with your doctor. If you were vaccinated at least six months ago or two months ago for the J. And J. Vaccine, go get your booster because it will strengthen your immunity. Make your appointment for that booster today. North Carolina is working hard to increase the number of vaccinated people in our state including Children who are now eligible. Just as we've done with the adult vaccine effort. We're working with trusted messengers including community leaders, family doctors and others to have an open conversation with parents who have questions And it's working In North Carolina. We're up to 13% of Children ages five through 11 who have received their first dose during the four weeks that we've been giving them since my executive order went into effect requiring state employees working in Cabinet agencies to be vaccinated or tested weekly. The vaccination rate has increased from 65%. In mid september To 76%. By the end of November. Our state health facilities have required vaccinations for their workers to protect them and their patients. More than 99% of those workers are now vaccinated. These numbers are good and we're working to do more and I appreciate all the private sector businesses that have similar rules for their workers and customers because you're making the right call to keep people safe before thanksgiving. I signed a new bipartisan state budget that will help our state out of this pandemic and come out even stronger. On the other side, it includes hundreds of millions of dollars for business recovery grants as well as funds for individual families that are struggling. It sends badly needed resources to local health departments who are on the front lines of the pandemic. It invests in our research universities where scientists are on the front lines of developing new treatments for COVID-19 and it funds filling the gaps in high speed internet that have been magnified over the last two years. My administration is working hard to implement these solutions and I look forward to the efficient and effective use of these dollars that will speed us through this pandemic and do so much more. Now. I'd like to ask dr Mandy Cohen, the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services to provide an update on our States States covid 19 trends dr cohen, Thank you governor. Before we dig into the data, I want to take a minute to talk about the new COVID-19 variant that has been making headlines. All viruses change over time and COVID-19 is no exception. The latest variant, a micron was recently designated as a variant of concern by the world Health Organization and we still have a lot to learn about a macron over the next few weeks. Scientists will be looking for answers to several questions. Is this new variant more contagious, Does it make people sicker and how will it impact our immunity and our treatments cases with the omicron variant have not yet been detected here in north Carolina or elsewhere in the United States, but many experts believe it is likely already here now. While there is no need for alarm, we do need to continue to closely monitor the science and data on this new variant and with that we'll dive into the data. This first graph looks at people who come into the emergency department with covid like symptoms. It's our earliest detection mechanism and the yellow line represents this current year. That shows that this trend has come down significantly from its recent peak in early september. But you can see the yellow line has started to just increase slightly over the past few weeks. However, it does remain below where we were a year ago, which is shown with that blue line. Next we look at new covid cases. This first graph shows you the trajectory of new cases each day since we had our first case back in March of 2020. And you can see our first major peak in cases was back in january of 2021. Before vaccines are widely available. That second peak in august and september was result of the delta variant and had the greatest impact on people who were not vaccinated. But let's zoom in and look at the last few weeks of cases on this graph, we're looking at cases from october through today and what you can see is that our cases have been largely level and appeared to even have decreased over the past week. Now we've made incredible progress as millions of north Carolinians have gotten vaccinated to protect their health and that of their community. But two things to note as we look at this graph, first testing over the thanksgiving holiday dropped significantly. So while case numbers are lower. This is probably an incomplete picture of what's happening in our state. Given the low amount of testing last week. Second, we won't know for a couple of weeks if thanksgiving gatherings with unvaccinated people will have an impact on our numbers. Next we'll look at the% October. 5 goal. On our next graph, we look at day everyday hospitalizations and this graph also starts in october and looking at that yellow line, you can see that trend has leveled the next slide. Looks at what's happening at the local level. This is a map from the CDC that shows a level of viral transmission. I am pleased to report that north Carolina is no longer in the red zone as a state. The C. D. C. Has now has our state in the orange with a substantial level of community transmission and several north Carolina counties are now yellow with a moderate level of community transmission and you can see looking at the map. The western part of the state currently has the highest rates of transmission. Now let's look at vaccinations today, 72% of those 18 and older have had at least one dose and 94% of those 65 and older are having at least one dose and that's really good progress. Next this slide shows the percent of the population that's received at least one dose by age group. You can see many families are choosing to vaccinate their younger Children now that we have a safe and effective vaccine. Getting Children vaccinated helps keep them healthy and protected from COVID-19. It's why I got my daughters vaccinated right away. You can see in the graph fewer young people are getting vaccinated. And this is concerning because as we saw during the delta surge, it was really hard to predict who's going to become seriously ill from covid 19 or who's going to experience those long term symptoms from covid 19. What we do know is getting vaccinated reduces your chance of getting COVID-19 and provide significant protection from serious illness. Hospitalization and death. Unvaccinated North Carolinians are six times more likely to get COVID-19 and 25 times more likely to die of COVID-19 than vaccinated. North Carolinians. If you haven't gotten vaccinated yet. Please talk with your doctor nurse or other medical professional or go to a reliable online health resource like the C. D. C. Or your spot your shot dot n C dot gov to be sure you're getting accurate information. Don't wait to vaccinate. And like many vaccinations, boosters are needed to strengthen and extend protection against COVID-19. Everyone 18 and older should get a booster as soon as they are eligible. If you got the johnson and johnson vaccine, you should get a booster at two months after your shot. If you've gotten the Moderna or the Pfizer vaccine, you should get a booster six months after your shot with the holidays, colder weather and this potential of a new variant approaching. You should not put off getting your booster. Now before I wrap up, I want to take a moment to thank Governor cooper as a governor shared in a press release earlier today, I will be stepping down from my role as secretary of the Department of Health and Human services. I want to thank you governor for your steadfast leadership, your partnership and your commitment to the people of north Carolina. You're a man of integrity, faith and resilience and I have not met anyone who loves the state more than you. I've learned so much from you and I'm so grateful for the opportunity you gave me to lead the Department of Health and human services. I also want to thank my incredible team at the department. I am so proud of our extraordinary work and what we have accomplished together to improve the health and well being of the state. I'm forever grateful for your sacrifice and hard work. And while it's hard to step away, it's the right time for me personally and the right time for our team. The Department of Health and Human Services is in a strong position to continue to carry out its mission. And in choosing chief deputy Secretary Kody kinsley is the department's next secretary. The governor has chosen an incredible leader to take the baton to run the next leg of this race. It has been an honor of a lifetime to serve this state at such an important moment in history. Thank you. Governor. Thank you. Dr Cohen North Carolina has benefited greatly from your leadership over the past five years. That's been especially true over the course of this pandemic, during which your work has saved countless lives. I deeply appreciate your service and your steady hand in times of crisis. You and I, along with our remarkable team, have been in the trenches together and we're gonna miss you. And speaking of a remarkable team, a leader you recruited into that group is ready to take the position of secretary when you step down and he'll continue your legacy of strong leadership. Dr Cohen Kody kinsley currently serves as your chief Deputy Secretary at the department. It has been leading covid operations for the state. I'll appoint him as secretary immediately upon your departure, he will continue to be supported by the team of doctors and public health experts who have advised and assisted both of us dr Cohen north Carolinians. Ou a deep debt of gratitude. You have been such a blessing to our state. Thank you my friend. But you have another month ago and I know as usual you're gonna be at it as determined as ever until the last day. So we're looking forward to the next month. Also with me today is north Carolina, Director of Emergency Management. Will ray are sign language interpreters or Monica McGee and behind the scenes Jackie materia and Margaret Wolf roberts, our spanish language interpreters. So now we will take questions from the media who are here. We also have a secretary of Public Safety Eddie buffalo here as well. Questions guys are slow on the draw today. Governor Sean Cudahy from CBS 17 um you know I think probably a lot of parents are nervous hearing the news of the new variant. Uh what is your level of confidence at this point based on what you know that their kids are gonna be able to stay in school in person this year. So my level of confidence is strong that vaccinations are going to continue to be the way out of this pandemic. We don't anticipate any additional restrictions at this point but we know that there are questions to answer and I'm gonna let dr Cohen talk just a minute about the variant and her discussions with experts. Thanks for the question. I think it's really important as the governor said for everyone to get vaccinated and particularly now that are 5 to 11 year olds can get vaccinated. I think it's really important to take advantage of this time. We haven't seen the new variant here in north Carolina nor in the United States but we believe it is likely already here. So the time to act is now for vaccinations. I think we have a lot to learn about how how this virus and its new changes may impact things going forward. Um But what we know is providing yourself that initial level of immunity through vaccination is going to be uh be helpful. I think we are all concerned looking at some of the early data from other countries seeing that it potentially could be more contagious. It doesn't in early data look like it is more severe. So that is good news. Um but it does show significant mutations or changes at the spot in the virus that we anchored our vaccines to. So again things we want to really start to look at with our scientists. Um so we'll be watching that data very closely a governor uh Jonah Kaplan with abc 11 before I get to dr Cohen, let's talk about her successor that you're nominating and I say this is someone that that she obviously has a lot of confidence and you have a lot of confidence in this is a role that has always been important but it's become more visible to people and we're still in this pandemic. And uh you know incoming secretary Kinzler, he may have an extensive background, I saw the treasury and as an administrator, he's not a physician. So what confidence do you have in him? And dr Cohen for you as well? What can you say to north Carolinians who may say well he's not a doctor. How can he lead us in the pandemic? Well, first I'm appointing Kody kinsley because he is the most qualified and experienced person for the job. He has been a part of this team for the past number of years and we've seen him in action. And Dr Cohen has put a lot of trust in him. Dr Cohen and I and Cody when he becomes secretary had been supported by a team of doctors and medical advisers and health experts who have collectively helped to advise us. So I feel very positive about Cody's leadership. I think this team is going to continue to stay together and Dr Cohen deserves an amazing amount of credit for recruiting some of the best people around to be a part of this team. And I have every confidence that he will do a great job and this team will support him. Do you want to co and respond to that if she'd like to. The only thing I would add, Jonah is that this response, yes is about making sure we can understand the science and data and we have plenty of public health experts and doctors that the team will continue to support that. But so much of it is about the execution and the operations and this is where Kody kinsley really shines and I have leaned on him so much to lead our operations. So I think him stepping into that role is is really quite a natural fit. Um He has been leading so much of our work. Um I'm so proud of what we've been able to do when we rolled out the initial vaccine effort. Um and we were able to really charge that into high gear. That was his work. Um and so I think he really has his hand in the operations, which is what really matters to people. Are we going to get tests? Are we going to get our vaccines? Are the boosters out there and then he will be supported by those public health experts at our department that are fantastic and have been advising me throughout this as well. Thank you Dr cohen, while you're still at the podium and while I can still ask questions of you? Uh it was their moment, what you said, this is the right time for you personally. Was there something that happened recently, Is there a turning point in the pandemic? Why? Step away now? Well it's been a wonderful five years. Um I am so honored that I had this opportunity to leave the state at this moment. I think we've accomplished so much beyond. I know folks see the covid response, but I'm really proud of the work we did the three years even leading up to Covid, I think it made made a difference in how we were able to be successful in responding, whether it was transitioning our Medicaid program or investing in early childhood, um, responding to the opioid crisis. Um, the unfortunate many hurricanes that we had to respond to together with emergency management. All of that I think contributed to our success. But for me it's been, it's been an amazing five years, but these have been challenging. Um, and so a bit of rest and recovery is what is in store for me next. Um, as I think about my um, next opportunity, There wasn't one moment, but it was, it felt like the team is very strong right now at DHS, I feel like they can take the baton and run with it for the next leg of the race. There was wide speculation that you might leave us for Washington, D. C. Before, Are you staying in north Carolina? Well, so I don't know what my next steps will hold. All I would say is that I and my family have fallen in love with north Carolina. Um, we love it here and I hope that my next steps will be able to keep us here. Thank you. It's coming cooper. Uh I would also say Jonah too. And I think that sometimes at these press conferences because I know you all have a lot of questions about medical data etcetera. We will probably have a doctor from our team who will be with Cody and me at these press conferences to be able to ask some of the medical, answer some of the medical questions as we go forward. But yeah, you had another question well. And this is more, you know, we talked about the covid 19 response and of course the Department of Health and Human Services, gigantic part of your administration. So what more initiatives do you look for? I mean we know Medicaid expansion. But what will you be calling on for the incoming secretary to lead? How what you know, you still have three years left in your administration. What do you expect from him? And what kind of initiatives do you hope he will take? Well, first getting more people covered with health insurance has to be the primary objective. And Medicaid expansion is still the number one goal because that can get 5-600,000 more working North Carolinians insured with federal dollars. So that will continue to be a priority Kody kinsley has extensive background in behavioral and mental health and we know that this pandemic has caused even exacerbated issues regarding mental health and addiction treatment. So we're gonna make sure that we we put an emphasis on that, but making sure we continue to administer this vaccination program, get people vaccinated and getting on the other side of the pandemic. It's got to be the primary objective here. During the next few months. I feel confident this team can can lead us through. And we're gonna continue to keep our eye on these other issues of mental health and investment in early childhood and looking after our senior population. Uh the department health and human Services does great things across the state and we're going to continue them. Mhm. Yes. Good afternoon Governor brea Hollingsworth with CBS 17 news. A federal judge in Missouri temporarily bear war. The federal government from requiring health care workers in Missouri and nine other states to get the covid 19 vaccine, curious to know if you've been following this and if so, what's your reaction to it? So as you know that our state-owned healthcare facilities, we required vaccinations for those health care workers and more than 99% of them got vaccinated because they cared about themselves, their families and their patients. And I think we need to continue to do things to encourage people to get vaccinations. So in north Carolina, we we've continued to increase the number of state employees getting vaccinated. We've encouraged employers who require their employees to get vaccinated. So we're gonna we're gonna continue to make that a top effort in our state. Hey don't um I understand President biden was meeting with governors this week. Have you um had that meeting yet? And what kind of guidance are you getting from him? As far as any, any changes in response with the new variant? So we get a White house briefing most every week. The last couple of months. That's been every other week. But we've been pleased with the response that we have been getting with vaccinations. We're talking more and more about the pills that can provide treatment and we're looking at how we're going to disperse those. Uh We're still working closely with fema to make sure we get reimbursements for all the efforts that we put forward in the state. So our federal partners are going to continue to be important to us as we work to get us through the other side of this pandemic. Do you um do you anticipate keeping the policy where it's by, by local and county looking at the changes on the C. D. C. Map as far as spread of certain counties want to have, you know, mass restrictions still or anything like that? Well, as you know, we have no statewide mandates in effect, we have recommendations which closely follow the CDC recommendations. I would expect we would continue to do that and you know, we've encouraged local governments to look at those recommendations and to make decisions that are best for their communities and a number of continued to do it but I hope that we can continue to make progress and the way to do that is to get people vaccinated. Did you say that um you had the briefing with the white house this week yet or No? I'm not this week. No, not at this point. Yeah. And I have questions for dr Cohen, I guess first one, Is this your last public appearance? Are are you, are you done with us for, for these three things after this? Well, Cody kins is going to take over on january 1st until then. Um, I will, I will certainly be here and I imagine with an evolving covid situation we may need to be back in this room, so I doubt it will be the last public appearance, but just in case it, it is, it has been, it has been an honor um, and a privilege. But I, I imagine with the evolving situation that we might maybe back for updates. Um, Jonah, can I ask this already as far as if there was one moment when, when did you make the decision to step down and when did you tell the governor? Um, so it's been, it's been an evolution. Um, and certainly the last two years have been quite a marathon. Um, and I'm so proud of all of the work that we've been able to accomplish. Um, and so as we came through the coming down off the delta surge when I saw things getting more stable. I watched my team with a lot of pride um being able to react to any new thing that was thrown at it, whether it was new boosters or this new variant, um, they were jumping into action um, in, in ways that, that were, that were fantastic And, and I felt like it was, I was able to now take this step back and pass the baton to the, to the next folks and I think I, I shared the news or my, my decision with him um a number of weeks ago so that we could get ready and plan and obviously so he can go through a process to um select my successor so that we'd be able to have a, a very smooth transition and that is my hope that we don't skip a beat. We're obviously still in the middle of a pandemic. Um, and so I wanted to make sure that um, well I gave the governor at the time for him to go through a process to select my successor. Sure. You know, this question is coming and no one else has asked yet, are you planning to run for office? Um I'm not planning to run for office. Um I am looking at opportunities that allow me to continue this impact, to improve the health and well being of communities. I don't know what that will look like. Um, exactly yet, but no plans for two to run for public office for filing starts next week. No, I do not plan to to file and run in any public public office. Would you be are you looking to work in one of the universities in north Carolina or would you um work in D. C. Again? Well I think I'm looking at a range of of opportunities I think. Um At first I want to spend a little bit of time with my my girls, my husband who have been amazing and supportive through this. Um And then we'll see what opportunities come. So what's the first thing you're going to do when you when you don't work for the government anymore? What are you doing january 1st january 1st. Well I think we'll still be spending some time with my family for sure. Um And I know that there will be a trip for my mom and my sister uh in the in the month of january. So that that's coming up soon. Thank you. Yes sir. Good afternoon. This is actually for Secretary Cohen as well. Matt Tahoma W. R. A. L. Secretary Cohen. I talked to several community organizations that you've worked with throughout this pandemic across the state who have said they really credited you with getting out there and helping, especially in communities that weren't typically outreached to. They said they hadn't seen that before. What would your message be to them? And will that kind of progress continue? Well I'm so gratified to hear that they felt the impact of the work of our department during this response effort, we made a very intentional, um, decision to make sure we put equity at the center of everything we did. And that meant partnership. We know so much of this response has been about building trust and trust with many communities. Um, but that has to translate into action and I'm glad they're seeing and feeling that action on the ground and that partnership and you can be assured. Um, that Kody kinsley has been by my side as we built those partnerships and is certainly going to, um, not only continue them, but I hope build upon them as well. So I'm grateful for that partnership. Um, and hope that it was just the beginning. Thank you. So do we have any calling questions? We'll take those. The first question is from Richard Quiver with the Winston, Salem Journal. Yes. Governor, Secretary Cohen, this is Richard Craver with the ones of Salem Journal. I was gonna ask you one covid related question and then one non. Um, the first is basically, are you all hopeful in sort of a strange way that the omni crone very, it might encourage more people to go ahead and get vaccinated and or get their booster shot? Well, obviously you don't want to see more variants of COVID-19, but we're gonna do everything we can to get more people vaccinated and you know, whatever motivates people. If this motivates people. As I said earlier, please go and get vaccinated. Next question. Our next question is from Jason de bruin. With north Carolina Public radio. Yeah. Hi, this is right. I thought we had I thought Richard had a follow up. Go ahead Jason. Yeah, no worries. Well I don't mind cutting back to Richard later. Go ahead Jason. Okay, thanks uh Secretary Cohen this one for you. I wonder if maybe you could put on your masters of public health sort of your that that hat for now, given that the um micron um variant came out of Africa Africa we know has a pretty low level of vaccination rate compared to the rest of the world. I wonder if there's a thought that if there was more vaccine equity, more vaccines sent to poorer countries. More vaccines perhaps given to kovacs, if that would have been perhaps more effective in stopping uh this new variant and perhaps protected perhaps protected the entire world in a better way. Well, thanks for that question, Jason, I do want to clarify that. I think as more and more scientific data is compiled. I think what we're seeing is that this variant likely didn't originate uh in Africa and may have been in uh europe or other parts of the world. Even prior to that, I think we're still sorting that through in the scientific community. I think South Africa was the first to um sequence um and identify and give us some clinical information here. So we should be very grateful um to the work done in South Africa by their medical community. I think it is informing our work now but I want to say that I think that we still don't know exactly where this variant happens. But we should also know viruses change. We knew um that this was a possibility just like it changed to become the delta variant. We knew this was a possibility. So yes vaccination is so important so that we can get as many people protected. Um I know that the United States has been working to make sure we're getting vaccine across the world. Um And that's why we want to make sure that in a country with the kinds of resources we have here with vaccine widely available that everyone is taking advantage of it because there are places unfortunately around the world who don't have that same kind of access to protect themselves. So let's take advantage of the amazing resources, the tools to protect ourselves that we have here. Whether it's getting vaccinated with your original series or going out if you're an adult getting your booster if it's been more than six months. So um I do think we have a collective amount of work that we need to do to help the whole world move beyond this pandemic. I think we are recognizing what an integrated and globalized world we live in um and how quickly this virus can move around. So we do have work to do um, in partnership with many, many countries around the world, but we got to do our work here in the United States as well. Thanks next question, please follow up Jason Deborah in north Carolina public radio. Thanks for that information. Um, and this question a little bit more just related to your time here at DHHS. There's a lot that you said you're proud of and um, I wonder if there's anything related to the pandemic response that you maybe wish that you had done differently or with the benefit of hindsight. If there's anything uh, that maybe you wish you would have Yeah, a decision you made that, that maybe um, with the benefit of hindsight, you would have done a little bit differently. Well, thanks for that, Jason. You know, I always want to make sure folks say this was a crisis, you can't monday monday morning quarterback a crisis. So I am very proud of the work. But absolutely we're, there are things that we should have done in preparation to be better ready to respond. Absolutely. I think we all remember back to the fact that we had, we had a shortage of protective equipment number one, we had supply chain issues, we weren't sure. Um, if we would have enough ventilators. So certainly there is a lot of lessons learned there. I think our data infrastructure as well was something we needed to build that did not exist at first for the kind of response and the scale of what we were dealing with. So there's a lot of preparatory work that I would have done and I think as we come out of this pandemic, there are a lot of lessons learned about how we can stay prepared um for something in the future. Um, and then make sure that we are putting the resources into public health. I think we've learned a lot. Um, we've built a lot and we need to make sure we maintain that vigilant posture into the future. Thanks next question. Our next question is a follow up from Richard Craver with the Winston Salem Journal. Yes, Richard Craver back with 10 year old. Thank you for circling back to me. Um, yesterday, um, the technical corrections bill to the state budget was introduced and passed through with bipartisan support of which it has a economic development project involving Piedmont triad International Airport. I was wanting to see um how much do you know about the project? And are you planning to sign that bill? Yeah. One of the successes that we've had has been working closely with the General Assembly leadership of both parties on economic development projects. And it's one of the reasons why we've created so many great paying jobs for our state and that economic recruitment continues. We continue to be aggressive about it. I'll review the entire legislation and I cannot comment on specific economic development projects, but I know that we're going to continue to be successful in this state. Next question please. Our next question is from laura lee Carolina public press. Yeah. Good afternoon. Governor, Laura lee from Carolina public press. You mentioned briefly earlier the covid drugs that are in the pipeline. I understand FDA advisers are meeting today to consider the Merck drug. Um, I know that the police in the vaccine process, a lot of the distribution details are actually um hashed out prior to approvals. And I'm wondering if it's a similar process for uh these drugs and what you know about the possibility of these drugs coming to north Carolina. We're excited to have new treatments continuing to come online for people who do have Covid. And I'll have to credit north Carolina. Scientists have been a real part of helping to discover new treatments. Uh, we do know that initially that the pill uh, that potentially can be approved will be somewhat limited. So we will have to have a distribution plan and I'm gonna let dr cho and talk a little bit about that. Thank you governor. Yes, Laura, as the, as the governor mentioned, there will be a centralized allocation process from the federal government with these um new medicines. They have warned us that the supply is very, very limited, particularly during the month of december. So we are looking at very targeted ways in which we can use a very, very limited number of courses of this medicine. So we're looking for places where we know folks are more immuno compromised. So maybe they've gotten vaccinated. But because they have some other immunodeficiency, the vaccine doesn't work as well for them. We want to make sure they are the ones who are prioritized for treatment at least at first. We're hopeful that by january will see more supply of this vaccine, which is great news. I think every additional tool that we get here is one more thing we can use to be back this pandemic. But we all need to be doing the work of using the strongest tool which is getting vaccinated getting boosted. Thanks. Next question please follow up laura, lee Carolina, public press. Yeah. A follow up for dr cohen on the prioritization criteria that you're using in terms of distribution. He said it will relate to immuno compromised individuals. Will it also potentially relate to areas of less vaccination, meaning um you know, more unvaccinated people that would potentially need the drugs. Is that part of the calculus and determining where these drugs will go laura at first where we're really doing rather than targeting people is targeting the kinds of providers that can both see those kind of see patients who might be immuno compromised and can also do the prescribing and the dispensing of the medication at the same time just because it's such a limited supply. So they're just uh there is a pretty narrow range of providers that will do that across the state. So rather than prioritizing any particular place we're trying to get access to the pill across the state and really target to providers who see more immunocompromised patients and have the ability to both um prescribe and dispense the medicine so they could do that all in one. So that's how we're doing things at first and again I think that's just for the first few weeks and I should uh I just want to make sure folks know it has not yet gotten full authorization from the FDA. They are reviewing that this week. So we we think maybe as soon as the end of this week or early next week for new courses of that treatment to be in north Carolina? Thank you. Next question. Our final question for today's press conference is from Rose Hoban with N. C. Health News. Hi Governor Secretary Cohen thanks so much for taking my question. Um My questions are for for about Cohen. Um The first question I have is about uh testing for omicron, you know what is the current capacity of the state to be testing for these new variants? Um You know how many uh you know what percentage of tests are being run? And you know do you feel confident that we'll be able to identify it when it gets here quickly. Uh Rose. Thanks for the question. So um the omicron variant can be picked up by a a a standard Pcr test um and we so the normal kinds of tests that you have been get, everyone has been getting um at many locations across north Carolina. That is the same test that would pick up this new variant as well. Um We are see I think the question is more about how many are we sequencing to understand? What kind of covid is this? Is it delta strain? Is it an omicron strain? Um I will say all of the samples that come at least to the state lab. We sequence every single one of those positive but that's a small fraction of the tests that are done here in north Carolina. We have many labs that have been helping us with testing. The interesting part about the ah micron vary and it does give off a particular signal on the pcR test and it does help our lab folks actually hone in on which samples they should be sequencing. So I do think that we are going to be looking for this particular signal that it gives off on a pcr test and doing a lot more uh samples of that to do the sequencing. But again, every positive that comes to our state lab is already sequenced. And as I said, we have not seen it here in north Carolina nor in another part of the United States but I know um all of our lab experts are looking closely uh at our data right now. Thank you. Oh, yep. Roses, their follow up. I've Took the five. so my other question is um, it's more of a, you know, on your tenure. I'm looking back at the interview I did with you when you first came and you talked about building trust across the aisle and it's, you know, by any measure, you seem to have been very successful at reaching across the aisle to members of the Republican members of the legislature. You know, what what allowed you to do that? And uh how did you, I guess, you know, talk a little bit about working with the entire legislature and um, you know, what skills or what it was, enables you to do that. Well, thanks Rose. I have tried over the five years of my tenure here as secretary um to work with everyone um across north Carolina, um different stakeholders from all walks of life, all sides of aisles. Um and you know, the way I do that is approach as as a problem solver. I want to make our state healthier. I want to improve the well being of our state and there is a lot of common ground that I have found their when we can exchange ideas and um so that has how, how I have approached things and I I think I also have been as transparent as I can both as you see, we do a lot of data, try to help explain why we're making the decisions we are are making. Um And I also um you know, make sure that folks can, can reach me, that we can be in dialogue, that I can hear their concerns um and that we can find a place where we can move forward together. So um I feel like we are, we've done a lot of really good work here in the state. I'm very proud of it, I think that success rests on trust. Um and it's something that I have worked very hard to make sure that that folks, no matter where they are in North Carolina can trust. The information that we're giving is the best information that we have at the time were always still learning and improving as we go. Um And I'm appreciative of all of this opportunity to lead here in the state over the last five years and thank you governor um for this, for this opportunity. Um It's been an honor. Thank you. I'll close the press conference and just say Rose that you hit on something that's really important. Not only is dr cohen brilliant and hardworking, but she has the ability to communicate with almost anybody and that has been a source of her strength and effectiveness in the state. And as I've told her, we look forward to the next 30 days, but also we look forward to the time beyond because we have a great team in place. It continued to lead North Carolina forward. Thank you guys for joining us today. Yeah. Yeah. Mhm. Yeah. Yeah. Mhm.