Cooper announces shift to Phase 3 of pandemic recovery plan
Gov. Roy Cooper and state health and safety officials provide a Sept. 30, 2020, update on the coronavirus outbreak in North Carolina and the state's response to it.
have 210,632 cases. 1 495 new cases reported since yesterday, 956 people in the hospital, and, sadly, 3532 people who have died. Our thoughts are always with those mourning a lost loved one or fighting this disease. Today we're cautiously encouraged about where we are in this pandemic. The key indicators we watch in North Carolina remained mostly stable, but I have to tell you that we see warning signs that the disease could spike again. Here and across the country, the virus continues to spread, so we must take the next steps methodically and responsibly. And we must rely on North Carolinians taking personal responsibility to protect others by wearing masks and keeping their social distance. Our top priority remains getting Children back to end person learning in school. This marks a major shift for many families now and in the coming months, as many schools opened their doors some for the first time since this pandemic. Our stability is fragile, and with cooler weather and flu season comes new challenges. While we are methodical and cautious about easing restrictions, we need to keep using proven measures, wearing a mask, waiting 6 ft apart and washing our hands often. But before we discuss the next phase, I'll ask Dr Mandy Cohen, our secretary of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, to walk through the data. Dr. Cohen. Thank you, Governor. Those three W's are going to be critical to protect the progress we've made. So let's dig into the data as a reminder. Every week we look at a combination of trend metrics. We look at Covad like syndrome, A cases new cases. Positive test is a percentage of the total tests and hospitalization. Together, these four metrics give us a complete picture of where we are today and as you'll see in the data were stable. But as the governor said, Fragile In our first graph, we look at people who come to the emergency department with co vid like symptoms. This is our earliest detection mechanism. Taking a look at the yellow line, you can see that this yellow line ticks up just slightly. This slight increase shows that we are at this fragile time, and we have work to dio to keep us on track. and keep that viral spread low, and we really want to see this trend decline. Next we look at new cases. This first graph gives you a look at the trajectory of new cases each day. Since we had our first case back in March. The Yellow Line shows our peak of cases back in July than a slight bump in August, corresponding to this reopening of universities and colleges. And then it declined to the cases at their current level. But let's zoom in to get a better sense of the current particular uh, picture, particularly over the month of September. On the positive side, we are currently below our peak from July and August. However, you can see that when you look at that yellow line, our cases have leveled. While overall, a leveling of this trend is a good thing. We want to continue to see our cases decline. We're seeing higher cases, particularly in the Northeast and sand hills area of the state, but we all need to be working hard to prevent viral spread. Next, we look at the percent of tests that are positive. Here we see a positive trend. We have been at or just under 5% of tests coming back positive over the last two weeks. This positive trend is because of everyone's hard work, but you'll also notice the last two days are percent positive. Tick back up to 6%. So we must continue to work hard to keep our progress going on our next graph. We look at day over day hospitalizations. You can see from the yellow line that this trend is level and we maintain sufficient hospital capacity. So okay, here's where we are. Surveillance data trended up very slightly. It gets a yellow line. North Carolina's trajectory of cases is level. It gets a yellow line. North Carolina's trajectory in percent of test returning, returning positive is level. It also gets a yellow line and North Carolina's trajectory. Hospitalization is level but still high. This gets a yellow line now to the capacity indicators regarding our testing capacity. Folks are getting their results faster, and we're continuing our surge of no cost testing events into October. However, we still want to see more testing being done, so this measure currently gets a sideways arrow. We continue hiring contact tracers to bolster the efforts of our local health department, and we've also launched our new exposure notification app. Slow cove it and see, So this metric gets an upwards arrow. Our PPE supplies remained stable, and we continue distribute PPE across the state. However, the federal government is now paying for less Onley funding PPE for health care workers and not for places like schools staff. So this indicator also gets a sideways arrow, are steady. Evidence based approach has kept us from those dire circumstances other states have faced and has allowed us to responsibly ease measures. The day in, day out hard work of North Carolinians is making a difference. But, as I said a few times, our progress is fragile. We cannot take anything for granted across the country cases air beginning to increase again, particularly in the Midwest and the South. We're seeing a similar trend in countries around the world, so we're going to need to double down on our work to slow the spread of this virus to keep on the right track. The good news is we've seen what's possible when North Carolinians come together. We avoided the 1st and 2nd peaks that much of the country, particularly the South experienced. We can protect our progress by doing three things. First is practicing those three W's wearing a face covering over your nose and mouth whenever you're with people that you don't live with, waiting 6 ft apart and avoiding large gatherings and washing your hands frequently with soaper water or using hand sanitizer. Second thing. Downloading the slow co vid and see app so you can know if you've been exposed to the virus and cannot quickly to protect yourself, your family and your community. More than 80,000 people have already downloaded the app, so we're off to a strong start. And the third thing things that you can do to protect your family right now is get a flu shot. The governor and I got our flu shots last week. And remember, whatever your reason, get behind the mask. Thanks so much, Governor. Thank you, Dr Cohen, and thank you for your leadership. We're encouraged to see North Carolina holding steady and because of our stability today we're taking another careful step forward. North Carolina will move into Phase three beginning this Friday, October, the second at 5 p.m. So here's what will change first are at risk, population is still safer at home. For those over 65 those with health risks. We urge responsibility in your choices for everyone. A face covering is mandatory for those over the age of five. As the head of the 500 said, a mask is the single best tool we have against this virus. So in this new order, large outdoor venues with seating greater than 10,000 may operate at 7% occupancy for Spectators with other safety protocols. As we previewed last week, similar outdoor entertainment venues like arenas or amphitheaters, may operate outdoors at 30% of outdoor capacity, or 100 guests, whichever is less. Movie theaters and conference centers may open indoor spaces to 30% of capacity, or 100 seated guests, whichever is less. Bars may operate outdoors only at 30% of outdoor capacity, or 100 guests, whichever is less. Outdoor amusement parks may open at 30% occupancy. The limits on mass gatherings will remain at 25 people indoors and 50 people outdoors. 3:11 p.m. Curfew on alcohol sales for in person consumption in locations such as restaurants and now outdoor bars will be extended. Phase three continues our state's dimmer switch approach to easing restrictions, and it will be effective through Friday, October the 23rd. I believe that North Carolina can do this safely, but so I'm clear. Every gathering carries the risk of spreading this disease. Being safe means being smart and making sure others around you are doing the same. If you're still a high risk, you're still safer at home. If you're going out, do what works where. A mask. Keep social distancing. Wash your hands often and don't patronize or go to places where people aren't doing that until we have a vaccine or reliable cure. Precautions like the three W's are with us for a while. Our Children can go back to school and our economy can fully rebuild when we're safe. And people have confidence that they can stay healthy. Every careful step we make forward. And every time we wear a mask and keep our distance, we are helping to keep this disease at bay and building a stronger North Carolina. Along with Secretary Cohen today, with me is emergency management director Mike Spray Berry, Nicole Fox and Brian Tipton. Our sign language interpreters are with us today and behind the scenes Jackie and Jasmine Motive Here are our Spanish language interpreter's. We thank the media for being with us today. We'll take questions now, beginning with the first one. If you can identify yourself and your organization, we would appreciate it. Thank you. Our first question is from Dons on with the News and Observer. I don't bond with the news and Observer. Thanks for taking my questions. I want to ask about the percentages. Um, a little more details about why exactly the 7% are supposed to 89% and the bigger venues and then 30% for others. Well, first, we know that these arenas, it's important for people to keep their social distance. You know that when you get that many people together, if you have three or 4000 people, which could be 7% of ah, larger arena, that if they all go together in one place, then that could be a significant problem. So not only do we have, uh, the 7% which is a low percentage, but enough room to keep them safe and to keep them socially distance. We also have safety protocols to go along with it. I know the Panthers and the Department of Health and Human Services have worked Ah, lot on this. And I think one of the plans that they presented was around that figure and it looked good and it looks safer for everyone. And I think that that was determined to be a good number for these sizes Arena because we we wanted people to keep their social distancing. We don't want them to gather in one place. We want people to be safe. We're trying to make sure we're using this dimmer switch approach in order to gradually get things back, but also protecting from the spread of the virus. You got anything to add to that taco? Next question, please follow up. Don von News and Observer. I think we're taking a follow up on the dimmer switch and this end date of October 23rd, do you want to continue phases by numbers or just make it a a longer range and then decide when it's time as faras? This exact timeframe of different phases and the changes that that makes and also how much longer do you think the mask mandate should be in for Yeah, well, the second part of your question first, As I said earlier, I think the mask mandate is going to continue to be important. Until we have a vaccine or a cure to this virus, I think it's gonna be important to, uh, protect the population. But I also I also think on your the other part of your question that we we will take thes three weeks to examine the science and the data like we always do, and then make decisions as we get toward the end of this three boom period about what Mawr North Carolina may do. We made this three weeks because we know we're getting into cooler weather and Dr Cohen has expressed her concern about the potential for increased virus spread. We're seeing some increases across the country, and we wanna make sure that we keep this window short enough so that we can react and we we hope to make some decisions. I hope we can keep our numbers down and stable and that we can continue to move forward. But we have to do this very cautiously. Next question question. Our next question is from the Wan Ho guard with ABC 11. Hey, Governor Cooper, Dawn Hogan with W T. D. ABC 11. Thanks for taking this question. Uh, the first one would just be if we could get some more clarity with respect to movie theaters, you say 30% or 100 guests. Is that overall, or is that per screen? Um, and then secondly, maybe a question for Dr Cohen as we appear. Approach Halloween. Any new guidance as if things progress the way that we would like them to Halloween would fall after the end of phase three. It is 30% per movie screen, uh, with also ah 100 person cap, whichever is less. And there are safety protocols, guidelines put together by the department to make sure that people are safe and that you don't have gatherings. Uh, in that in the main parts of the theater. I'll let Dr Cohen address the Halloween issue. Hi, do on our department put out guidance related to Halloween at the end of last week, so you can go and check out that guidance. But essentially, Halloween is not canceled, But like many things this year, it's going to have to look a little different, and I think it's a perfect opportunities. You're thinking about what you want to be for Halloween. Think about how you're gonna incorporate certainly a face covering or a mask as part of that costume, and it's gonna hold the same principles. We wanna make sure that people are wearing a mask waiting 6 ft apart and washing their hands. So when you think of a traditional go door to door trick or treat, I think that's gonna have to look a little different. And we gave some different kinds of options that folks can think about whether that's, um, a candy hunt in someone's backyard. Or there are ways to more safely put candy out so that folks aren't dipping their hands into the same bowl, um, that others might be. So there are options in there to lower everyone's risk. What I will share, as I always do with folks, is that you need to evaluate your own risk as your fan as a family, Um, and make sure that you're doing things to protect yourself. It doesn't eliminate risk. We can only lower risk, and we do hope that folks do look at that guidance and do though some of those lower risk activities. Um, particularly what I am worried about is parties that are indoors. So again, the governor just spoke in his executive order about mass gathering limits. We don't want to see more than 25 people indoors 50 people outdoors again. That is because we have seen over and over that this virus can spread easily in groups of people. Eso there's a way to enjoy Halloween. I'm certainly looking forward to that, but we just have to do it a little bit differently this year. Thanks. Thank you. Next question, please. Our next question is from John Downey with the Charlotte Business Journal. But yes, this is this is John Downey with Charlotte Business Journal. Governor, I have a non coated question. Do you have any reaction to the published reports that Nextera Energy is interested in buying Duke Energy Corp. I haven't read the article on it. I heard about it today, but what I will say is that North Carolina is proud to be the home of Duke Energy, which is a Fortune 50 company. Duke has been an important partner in our economic development and right here. The emergency operation center in disaster recovery. I'm also pleased with Duke Energy's response to my clean energy plan that I put forward an executive order 80 and our commitment Thio clean Renewable energy. Duke's commitment to clean energy will set an important example, And it will help us move our state forward to a stronger, clean energy future. Next question, please. Come on, follow up. John Downey, Charlotte Business Journal. Mhm. Yes. You said you had not seen the articles. Do you have any independent information that indicates that that that offer may be out there? I have any indication on that. No. Next question. Question, please. Our next question is from Brian Anderson with the Associated Press. Hi, Governor. Hi, Dr Helen. Brian Anderson here with the A P. I have a question for each of you. First for the governor. Uh, can you commit to reopening schools that have students between the grades of of six and 12? We know Kato five there, But there any sort of timetable on grades six through 12 specifically on Dr Cohen? I didn't hear many green, really? And I didn't hear any red in the trendy were presenting Do you agree with this decision toe move to phase three that Governor Cooper has had come to? Well, in the schools? It is our top priority to get all of our students back into in person learning. It's as we move through these phases. We're continuing to keep that as the main priority. Already, we've given that option to make sure that everyone could do that in K through five. But each community has different levels of virus spread, and they need to make these decisions themselves. Don't have a timeline on it, but just know that it remains a priority for us part Coward Thanks Brian for the question, and we are taking cautious steps forward in this next phase. I think it's why you see, with every venue that we're opening, that there are both capacity restrictions, masking restriction, social distancing requirements s so I think it is a thoughtful step forward, but our trends are fragile. I think that has been the theme of what I was sharing today with. Our trends were stable but fragile, and I think it means that we need to continue the hard work that we're doing. Um, so we need to make sure that everyone recognizes that they have a part to play in this, Um, whether it's following the three W's getting your flu shot, downloading slow cove it and see AP s So we have work to do is we go forward, But we need to balance. Um, as we move forward here, we want to balance being able to continue to make progress as well as hold down this viral spread. And we can do that when we work together. Thanks. Next question. Please follow up. Brian Anderson, Associated Press. Hi, Governor. I'm just curious. How will you be voting this election cycle? And if it's by mail, what degree of confidence do you have in that process? So first, I have confidence in the security of our elections. And I know the State Board of Elections is working hard to make sure that our elections are safe and secure, that everybody has the opportunity to vote. Right now I'm planning. I think I'm gonna vote early in person. That's the way that I usually do it in Christian and I will probably do that shortly after the polls open on October 15. Next question. Okay. Our next question is from Richard Craver with the Winston Salem Journal. Yes, Governor. This is Richard Craver with Mrs Salem Journal on, and I was gonna ask a question. Also of you and and the secretary, I guess First of all, at this point, with this limited introduction into phase three, what do you feel like Are the biggest challenges or biggest hurdles left in terms of what to reopen? Um, is it just the capacity or is it a situation? There's still elements that you're still leery to reopen. And then the second question is a sort of falling upon questions from last week. Um, given the positive rate that has gone up in the last 23 days, Have you all seen any indications of any large events? Whether the President trump rally here in Winston Salem or other where that might be contributed to that positive rate going up. So first I think we are concerned about indoor events and indoor gatherings, and it's one of the biggest issues that we have. Obviously, outdoor gatherings. There's less risk. They're still risk their when people stand close together, they don't have masks. Uh, but there is more of a risk risk inside, so that will be a challenge. The other challenge is just getting every person to do his or her part. We really could beat down this. The spread of this virus if everyone had personal responsibility, was careful and cautious. Then we could move a lot faster. When that happens, we can make it easier toe, get our Children in school safely. Make it easier, Thio, ease these restrictions and make it easier to stop the spread of of this virus. I know that we look at the positivity rate just like our other indicators. We try to look at them over a 14 day period. So we've we've kept this thing around 5% which is where Dr Cohen wants to be. 5% or lower? Yes, the last couple of days, uh, we've been upto 6% of the over 6%. But that's one of the reasons why this whole thing is fragile right now is because we're We know that as we move into the fall and winter that we may see an uptick. Dr. Cohen, would you want to comment on that? Thanks, Richard. First, I do want to reiterate what the governor was saying about the distinction between indoor and outdoor, and I think is you see moving forward in this cautious way that we are promoting things that are outdoors if they are higher risk activities. So the things that we still think our challenges are indoor gathering type activities, those they're gonna be activities that continue to bring with them a risk of viral spread. And that's again why we go back to the things that we know we need to dio follow These restrictions were wearing your face coverings. In addition, I think we're also seeing that that there is spread of the virus even amongst family members and particularly extended family. And it's why, when we talk about wearing your face covering, we wanna make sure that you are wearing it any time you are not with the people who are directly with those whom with you live s o. I think folks let down their guard a little bit. If it's their close family or extended family close friends, um and so we just want to make sure everyone is remembering that we are particularly seeing when folks get lax on doing the three W's wearing massive staying socially distance. That is, when we're seeing spread of this virus, it can be in restaurant situations. It can be in religious settings. Eso We wanna make sure that in all those settings we are truly abiding by the restrictions that are in place. It is meant to keep the virus level low so that we can continue to do these activities. But just do them in a modified way, um, to allow us to both open things as well as keep that virus spread low. Thanks. Next question. Police follow up. Richard Craver, Winston Salem Journal. Yes, the follow question I had is a given how crucial North Carolina seems to be in terms of the presidential election, the U. S Senate and the like. Have you all been able to communicate and get, I guess, some cooperation with whether it's President Trump's campaign vice president. Biden's campaign Senate campaigns in terms of adhering to the masking, um, requirements to mass gathering requirements and things like that that you all had, uh, started initially talking to a few weeks ago. We're continuing to urge everyone political candidates, people who have business meetings to comply with e executive orders the mask mandate, the mass gathering limits just to save lives and protect people. Uh, I don't know about specific conversations. I don't doctor co. And I don't think she's had any specific conversations. But we've been pretty clear that that's what we encourage them to do, and we're gonna keep encouraging them to do that. Next question, please. Our next question is from sharing Van Sweeten with spectrum news. Good afternoon. Excuse me, Governor, um, Illinois this week decided to go backwards and close indoor dining and make other changes because it's positivity rate jumped. What kind of a positivity rate jump would North Carolina consider to further shut down what is open? One of the reasons that we are moving cautiously forward is that we don't want to go backward. We would not tie it to any one indicator if we said all along that we're looking at levels of positive cases, that we're looking at percentage positives, that we're looking at our hospital capacity that we're looking at our testing capacity. We have several indicators that we look in. A combination of those indicators would tell us what we need to do next. It's something that potentially could happen in order to protect the health and safety of North Carolinians. That is our number one priority. But one of the reasons why we are moving cautiously. And we are continuing to encourage people to take personal responsibility and to be careful and for these restaurants that are open for your customers and waiters and cooks and everybody to abide by the safety rules so that we can go forward and so that we don't have to go backward dot co Anyone say anything? Okay, Next question. Please follow up. Sharing vans beaten. Spectrum news, Governor After last night's debate, a lot of people are questioning if that remains a relevant method of campaigning and reaching out to voters at this time. Uh, do you plan on doing any debates and how will this shape your campaign? Yes, we have ah, debate. I have a debate scheduled, I think October 14th and do plan to take part in that debate. Hope will be a little nicer to each other. Next question, please. Come on. Our next question is from Travis saying with WRL Yeah, thanks for taking the question, Dr Cohen. In some states, we've seen contract tracing efforts lead to the release kind of a rundown of how of an example of how the virus spread describing super spreader events. And what I'm wondering is, have we had any super spreader events in the last couple of months? Uh, is that one of the primary ways this is moving now, is it mawr? As you said between family members, can you kind of give us an idea of what our contact tracing is telling us specifically about how this virus is most likely to move right now? Travis, thanks for that question. Um, are the virus moves in a number of ways, as I was mentioning before tends to move, actually, for folks who are, um, the in extended family, close family and friends, right? So again, I think folks are letting down their guard when they're with their extended family or friends. And, again, why it's so important to make sure you're wearing your mask not just when you go to the grocery store, but even when you might get together with those closest to you. Um, the other places we continue to watch our in congregate living settings. Whether that is a correctional facility, a long term care setting, a homeless shelter, a farm worker, living area. So those air places that we're gonna always continue to work on, I think we've made a lot of progress, but anywhere that the, um that folks are living in closer quarters, that virus is going to spread. I think the third category are those kinds of gatherings that you've mentioned, and many of our local health departments have, um, put out information about these events in various ways. Whether that happened at a restaurant or religious setting. Um, we've seen it, obviously, at our universities and higher ed, sometimes in a dorm, sometimes in a, uh in a off campus housing. So those are the ways in which we're really seeing virus spread. We've learned a lot about this virus. What we know is that the risks are greater indoors than outdoors. So that's one. The risks are greater when you do have a lot of folks together, because there are certain events that cause virus to spread to a lot of people all at once, and then it seeds even more people. So that's a concern about bringing people together. And it's why those three W's map to exactly the way in which this virus spread. And that's why you wanna be wearing a mask waiting 6 ft apart and washing your hands. That's the That's a tried and true way in which we're going to live with this virus but still allow us to make progress, as we were talking about today. Thanks. Next question. Please follow up, Travis, saying WRL thanks for the follow up. I want to make sure I'm understanding the outdoor bar restrictions. They're fairly complicated. I'm assuming there are a number of bars that have not had outdoor seating before and thus do not have an outdoor occupancy capacity in my reading. This correct that in that case they would be limited to no more than seven customers for every 1000 square feet of the outdoor area. Do that. Hi. Hi, Travis. That's exactly right. We recognize that outdoor capacity is not always a thing that someone is owned for. Um and so, yes, we sort of have a proxy for what does about 30% of a space look like? And so that's how we came up with the seven per 1000 ft, uh, guidance that you see in the executive order today. That's exactly right. Thank you. Next question, please. Our final question today will be from Derek Calendar with Fox 46. Thank you for taking my question. This is Derek Elegy with Fox 46. We spoke in the bars and at least a couple of other businesses that say that they've gone into debt and just to stay in some semblance of not entirely closing. And they say evil, re opening with restrictions. It's not enough. And they're on the verge of collapse or have collapsed. And whatever help if they've been getting simply, they say, is not enough. Is there any additional help that the administration, or that you want the Legislature to do the further offset the losses that they've seen? So we asked for some significant funding for our small businesses to help them with paying their deaths, their utilities, their rent, their employees, Uh, money has been put forward for that, and applications are are ready to be taken for that. But I asked the General Assembly for mawr than than they ended up appropriating. Uh, we need to doom or for these small businesses, we need to help them in several ways. We need to provide assistance for them, but we also need to work hard. Thio slow the spread of this virus because a lot of businesses most of North Carolina, it is open. Uh, and ah, lot of businesses don't have enough customers because people don't feel safe enough to patronize them. And what we've got to do is to lower the spread of this virus so people will feel safer. And that's why I mentioned earlier that that's that's the way for us to really get our economy fully going is to deal with this pandemic. Let's let's don't pretend that it doesn't exist. It's out there and it's making people sick and it's killing people. And we have to step up and do what we need to do to slow the spread. That's gonna be the way we save lives. It's also gonna be the way that we continue to push our economy forward. Thanks very much for joining us today. And, uh, stay safe out there. Everybody