Cooper criticizes legislative effort to reopen bars
Gov. Roy Cooper and state health and safety officials provide a May 28, 2020, update on the coronavirus outbreak in North Carolina and the state's response to it.
even people who have died today is one of our state's highest days of reported deaths and hospitalizations since this crisis began nationwide, we passed the grim benchmark with more than 100,000 lost, two covered 19. We continue to pray for the families left behind in the wake of this cruel virus, and we remind ourselves that these aren't just numbers there, people who've died in North Carolina. Our case count has continued to go up. We know that one reason is because we have increased testing, which is critical to reigniting our economy and keeping people safe. We've increased our testing significantly, and the Department of Health and Human Services Cove in 19 website now has an interactive tool to find a testing site in your area. It includes more than 300 places where you can go and get tested, and we have more than 30 private companies and hospitals doing the lab work on the samples to get the cove in 19 results. Today, another private partner, CVS, has announced 55 new drive through testing locations all across North Carolina. We're glad to have another retail store that offers testing, especially as we work to make testing available to historically underserved communities covered, 19 is shining a bright light on long standing in inequalities that we have in health care. Yesterday, our Department of Health and Human Services launched a radio and video campaign to share important messages about Cove in 19 to historically marginalized populations. African American and Hispanic communities make up a disproportionate number of our states lab confirmed cases and deaths compared with their percentage in the population. And we must focus on how we can identify these disparities and, most importantly, work to fix him. It's important to keep this gap in mind both for the location of testing sites and also in contact tracing community cares of. North Carolina has now hired almost all of the 250 staff members that we need to get more contact tracing help in our local health departments. Their goal was to complete this hiring by the end of May, and I appreciate their efforts to meet that goal. We know that contact tracing is mawr effective, that when that workforce are the contact, tracers are diverse and their representative of the people that they serve and these new hirings show that this is critical work that will help people know whether they've been exposed to the virus and whether to monitor for symptoms or quarantine themselves to protect their loved ones and others across the globe, our country and our state. We know that this virus has hurt the economy. Today. I'm pleased to announce that North Carolina has received a federal grant from the U. S. Department of Labor to support job training and temporary employment opportunities. Our Commerce Department's Division of Workforce Solutions requested the funds, and they'll partner with local workforce development boards throughout the state. People are eligible to participate if they've been laid off due to covered 19. The funds can help pay for on the job training temporary positions focused on COVE in 19 or short term training for workers to learn new skills that are now in demand. This $6 million grant will help our Commerce Department set up these programs, and the state of North Carolina will continue to carry the torch forward as we focus on helping people get back on their feet as we're now six days into safer at home face to please continue to look out for each other show respect for those workers who are still trying to navigate this pandemic, to keep their customer safe and to keep their businesses open. Be courteous to one another when you're out and about. Remember those three W's where face covering, wash your hands and wait six feet apart. Yeah, you've heard these basic safety steps a lot, but they are mighty tools that each of us has to fight this virus. Never underestimate their importance. And let's don't let our guard down with me. Today is our secretary of Health and Human Services, Dr Mandy Cohen, our emergency management director. Mike Spray Berry and Commissioner of Prisons Todd Issue. Karen Magoon and Nicole Fox are sign language interpreters and behind the scenes Jackie and Jasmine Motive. Here are our Spanish language interpreters. We'll now hear first from Dr Cohen Cohen. Thank you, Governor. We continue to respond to all of the impacts of Cove in 19 including making sure our Children have the nutritious meals that they need to thrive while schools are closed. We were one of the first states to take advantage of a new federal nutrition program called the Pandemic E B T program. or P E B T. Families of nearly 900,000 Children who receive free and reduced lunch are receiving about $350 in P e B t per child to buy groceries and put food on the table. This program was authorized through the end of the traditional school year calendar, but we know the need for our Children won't end at that point. Extending P E B T benefits through the summer would help provide families of nearly half of North Carolina school Children about $250 in additional support per child. I've sent a letter to our congressional delegation urging them to support the extension of this important program through our summer months. This pandemic has also created tremendous challenges for the hospitals in our state. They've worked hard to prepare for the influx of cove in 19 patients needing care. But this crisis has also created financial instability at a time where we need our hospitals to be a strong as possible and ready to care for North Carolinians, including the two million Medicaid beneficiaries or more than two million Medicaid beneficiaries. To help address these challenges, our department has accelerated the timing of some Medicaid payments that usually would happen in the fall. It's a total of nearly $1.6 billion that 1.6 billion has now been distributed to more than 100 hospitals across the state. And while this is a positive development, we know it's only a temporary Band Aid and that more support is needed for all of our health care providers during this crisis. Finally, as the governor mentioned were excited about the launch of our new campaign to reach historically marginalized populations to share important messages about reducing risk for Cove in 19 African Americans and Latin except the Hispanic community is make up a disproportional number of North Carolina's Cove in 19 lab confirmed cases and deaths. So our department is partnering with prominent leaders who represent these communities hardest. Hit by Cove in 19 these leaders deliver messages about precautions and testing contact tracing we that will resonate with historically marginalized populations. The campaign includes radio ads and video messages promoting really resiliency, coping strategies for our historically marginalized populations, and the three W's wearing a face covering waiting six feet apart and washing your hands often protect yourself and others from Cove in 19. I hope everyone likes them will share these messages widely a new social media and to share them with your friends and family. Thank you, Governor. Thank you. Dr. Cohen will now hear from our emergency management Director, Mike Spray Berry Mike. Thank you, everyone. And thank you, Governor, for your leadership. Get afternoon. I'll begin today with an update on severe weather The remnants of Tropical Storm Bertha, pastor in North Carolina. Yesterday, a possible tornado caused minor damage to some homes in Warren County and left behind down trees. But we're fortunate to report no other significant damages and no injuries. The range from Bertha coupled with already high water levels from rain earlier in the week or causing elevated river levels in many areas of the state. While no major flooding is occurring, people along rivers and streams should remain alert to rising water levels. The state's Feinman website, where you can monitor river and stream gauges across the state and get alerts about flooding in your area. That's Feinman dot n c dot gov f i m a n dot n c dot gov Go there for information on flooding in your area. Please use caution around rivers and streams of fast moving floodwaters and remember not to drive through water moving across the road right with tropical storms. Arthur and Bertha, having already made, are what their way to our state in the month of May. Let them serve is a bracing reminder that hurricane season 2020 begins Monday, June the first. Please make sure you and your family go to the ready and see dot org's website for tips on how to ensure you're prepared. Today is Day 80 of the State of Mercy operations Centres Cove in 19 response teams, air distributing personal protective equipment, the long term care facilities in the triangle area today and tomorrow at a drive three side in Raleigh. We've had successful distribution events earlier this week and color We, Fletcher and Eadington that provided supplies to long term care facilities in 17 counties. Since we started this operation two weeks ago, we've distributed to 60 counties, and this operation will continue next week. Our partners with the Office of Emergency Medical Services, the National Guard, the Civil Air Patrol and state and local emergency managers have been doing great work planning and operating this distribution events, making sure long term care facilities have the supplies they need to protect their residents and staff. A special thanks to our volunteers in the Civil Air Patrol, we know we can't successfully respond to emergencies without volunteers. As we continue to obtain and distribute personal protective equipment, our supplies of isolation gowns and n 95 mask or improving, we receive shipments yesterday of nearly 700,000 in 95 mask and isolation gowns. Air coming in as well. This is good news as those air two key items of PPE that we need to support increased testing. The FEMA funded non congregate sheltering program is continuing to provide rooms for people who need to isolate. Due to covert 19. Last week, 44 counties were used in the program to shelter nearly 1200 people. This type of non congregate sheltering in hotels, dormitories and other facilities allows for separation and distancing to prevent the spread of the virus. It has been authorized by FEMA for use during this hurricane season, since we won't be able to operate large congregate shelters for evacuees the same way we have in past years. Remember, like the governor and the secretary just told you, observed the three ws where a cloth face covering Wait at least six feet apart and wash your hands often. That's where weight and wash with these simple yet effective tools we all have. The ability is individuals to slow the spread of the virus. That's really power. As always. Don't forget to look out for your family, friends and neighbors, and the call your loved ones daily guaranteed. They'll appreciate it with kindness and cooperation will all get through this together as one team, one mission and one family. Thank you, Governor. Thank you. Mike will now take questions from the media. If you can identify yourself and you can identify your station, your organization, we would appreciate it. We'll take first question. Our first question will be from Gary Robertson, Associated Press. Hey, Governor Gary Robinson, with AP you can hear me today. I've got some ah technology issues. So if I feel like I'm talking to a soup, can I apologize? Uh, yeah, no good. The Legislature Ah, seemed to be ah, very close to sending you a bill that would, ah, basically order that part bars could open again, provided that they serve outside and also expand capacity for restaurants outdoors. Have you seen this bill? And what your faults on basically, the Legislature, in some ways, looking Teoh, Uh, basically cancel out your order as it relates to faras being closed. Well, we're six days in tow, face to and on a day when we're seeing some of our highest numbers of hospitalizations and death, the Senate wants to open bars. Uh, these decisions are difficult, but they're made with daily briefings from doctors and health care experts. This legislation would mean that even if there is a surge of cove in 19 that would overwhelm I'll hospitals that bars still stay open. Now, I know that it is a tough time for business, and I believe that there will be a time when we can open bars. But that time is not now. And I hope that the House will look at this carefully and that senators will reconsider their choice about this. We've got to keep the health and safety of North Carolinians as our number one priority. Thanks. Next question. Brian Murphy with McClatchy had Governor Brian Murphy with the news and observer. I appreciate it. Um, are you planning to take action against places like a speedway that ignore face to the face to executive order and open when they're not supposed t o or operate with stands? Well, you get the Highway Patrol or National Guard involved, and if there are no plans to do anything, what will prevent other events like the RNC from operating without any regard to the rules that are in place? Well, thanks for that question. Our Department of Health and Human Services has reiterated to local officials in Alamance County that a race with a lot of Spectators is dangerous. We are hoping that these things can be handled locally, and we believe that local officials should take action to president proof to prevent something like that that can cause illness and death. Uh, we understand that this particular race, way and elements county may not be holding races this weekend. That's a good sign, and we hope that local officials will take this seriously. I'll say again that across the with Carolina, most people and businesses are complying with orders, and not only that going the extra mile beyond these orders to protect people from the potential of Contracting Cove in 19. And that's a good thing. And we'll continue to work with local officials and continue to work with businesses to find the best ways to slow the spread. If we have repeated violations that local officials won't take any action on than will have to review all of our auctions and consider further action that we might take Thanks for that question. Next question, please. Vanessa Rossi. WCNC Hi there. This is the necessary Facebook wcnc Charlotte, Thank you for taking my question. It concerns data and actually a two part question. First of all, hospitalizations. As you just noted, Governor hospitalizations hit a new high. In fact, this is the third high that we've seen this week. Assorted hospitalizations and the trends were being in the recent days. Is there a concern with the direction of this metric as well as the status of hospital resource is like says in ventilator. Second question is percent positive. We've also noticed he's trending higher in recent days. I know that you noted that there's been increased testing what should catch expert cases, so that would account for the growth in the number of cases but prevent positive close to account for increased testing. It's a percentage. So what could be at play here with the growth in percent positive tests that we're seeing in recent days? Thanks. Well, in answer to your first question, yes, we are concerned about the higher rate of hospitalizations. We do know that our hospitals can surge their beds in order to get ready for a surge of cove in 19. And they did that when? In March we issued the emergency order and they got ready for this because North Carolinians responded and did what they needed to do. We were able to flatten the curve, and that overwhelming surge did not come upon our hospitals. What they're doing now is getting back to other kinds of treatments and preventive care and other kinds of surgeries. So there is less room than there was before in the event of a covert surge. The good thing is that these hospitals have learned how to surge their beds for covet, and if we see these numbers going higher, they will be ready to surge there. Number of beds. That being said, we are concerned about the number of hospitalizations for Cove in 19 continuing to go up. This is why we're in phase two right now and not opening everything up. This is why we think we need to stay in face to for a while to see how these numbers go. Now our percentage positives are still low. We've seen a little up and down, but for the most part, the percentage positives have remained pretty steady. Sometimes when you do a lot of testing in congregant facilities that you're gonna have a higher number of positives. But I'm gonna let Dr Cohen see if she wants to comment on both of those Say the different governor did grade on. I don't have much to add either in the hospitalizations I think it is concerning. It is exactly right why we need to take modest step forwards and tow. Watch these numbers. Are we going to go up and hold in the low seven hundreds or we gonna continue to increase? So we're gonna be watching that number really closely. And I think it reminds us all that the virus is here is in our communities, and then our work is to continue. Keep the viral spread low right and keep that curve flatten so we don't overwhelm our health care system. And again, that goes back to some very simple, tried and true things. It's the three W's you hear all the time, and as far as a percent positive governor got that exactly right to which is, it's been largely stable. It's been hanging around 8%. Little ups and downs here can be impacted by whatever might have been happening on a given testing day. Um, and again you can see and follow along with us again. Each of these data points, whether it's hospitalizations or percent positive, they all have limitations. It's why we need to look at these metrics in combination with each other. We continue to see high numbers of new cases day over day. We're watching that as well. We continue to look at our surveillance data. All of that paints a picture of where we are for North Carolina, and what it tells us is we need to take slow steps and we need to protect each other. So I think that we continue to be on that right path, but we have to take the cautious steps that we're taking. I think I'll go back to where the earlier question. Which is why it's concerning to hear about us rushing forward on some additional activities. Why we see some of these metrics creeping up. We want to make sure that what we're doing allows us to hold the virus level and that spread steady here in North Carolina so that we can keep moving forward and making progress. Thanks. Thank you. Next question, please. Craver, Winston Salem Journal. Yes, I'll Governor, this is Richard Krever with Asylum Journal. I was going to ask you a variation of a question about the doors. I know when the bills were introduced, Teoh, we're changing senator with two separate bills, one focused on restaurants and then one focused on bars and they were combined today. And from what I understand from listening to the debate this morning, there were legislators who were leery of combining the two bills. So is there a situation where you my support the bill that was focused on the restaurants in the very pops and then not on the one that focuses on the bills? I mean, the board, we're always willing toe work with legislators on these kinds of issues. It's important, however, when we're reacting to a virus, that we can see significant surge happen in a quick period of time. It's important for our health experts to have the flexibility to take the action that is needed to slow the spread of the virus. And when you have legislation that is passed and fixing a certain situation at a certain time, it's very difficult to go back and undo an unwind legislation. This is why the General Assembly passed the emergency Act to start with so that officials can react to these kinds of health care crisis. This is an unprecedented time. We haven't seen anything like this. We have been successful in flattening the curve, and that's why we felt that it was positive to go into Phase two. But we didn't want to go and open everything back up for concern of numbers going up in a quick way. This is why bars were closed so in an. In addition, this legislation prevents local governments from going in in making those decisions, and in all of our orders, we know that there can be hot spots in some of our cities particularly, and wanted local governments to have the flexibility to come in and even doom or in their orders in order to protect their people from Cove in 19 infections. So I think legislation in this area can hurt the public health because I don't think I read this legislation quickly this morning, but I don't even think that it limits it to Cove in 19. I think there were being any other kinds of emergencies that health officials could not take steps to do things with bars if if they needed to do it for some other reason. So we have concerns about this legislation. We think it has the potential to harm public health. I know that businesses are hurting and I want to get our economy reignited. And that's why I felt like it was worth the risk to move into face, to open up more businesses in a safe way in order to get the economy moving again. But if you do with this one, what's next? And then are we gonna have all of these laws in place that limit the flexibility of health care officials who are making on the ground decisions looking at the numbers every day and making decisions about the public health. We don't know what this covet 19 is going to do. We don't know what's ahead with it. And we hope the General Assembly will leave the flexibility to be guided by the experts on the steps that we take. Thanks. Next question. Please. Kenny back. W X II Governor Kenny back here W X II 12 News. I have a question for you and for Dr Cohen. Governor Cooper. Earlier in the week Tuesday afternoon, President Trump said he needed to hear from you within a week regarding the status of the RNC. Is there any scenario where you will be able to tell the president within the next five days that the RNC in late August and Charlotte Tan have full crowd and full participation? And my question for Dr Cohen is we are seeing a recent spike in positive cases in precise County 97 reported by the local health department just since yesterday. That makes up a disproportionate number of cases. When you look at first sight, counties size in the scope of all of North Carolina, what are you aware of as far as the cause they're. And how concerned are you about this recent trend? It's not the first time in the last couple of weeks that for Site County has seen 50 plus orm or cases in a single day. Thanks, Kitty. Uh, we're ready toe. Hold the RNC convention in North Carolina in a safe way. And for weeks and months, the health experts in our office have had conversations with the people organizing the RNC about how toe have it in a safe way. Similarly, we've been having the same kinds of conversations with the Carolina Panthers and with Charlotte Hornets and other arenas that are gonna want to open in a few months. And we're asking for plans from them about how they want to open. When NASCAR wanted to run the race in North Carolina, we asked them for plans about how they're going to run the race in a safe way. NASCAR submitted those plans. There are health officials. Health officials gave feedback, they made some changes, and they ended up putting on a very safe and entertaining NASCAR race of the Coca Cola 600. We hope the same thing can happen with the RNC convention, and we've asked the RNC to submit plans for us. To us. We have yet receiving any kinds of any plans were not on any timeline here. We want to work with them and look forward to them submitting plans to us. We've yet to see them. I'll let Dr Cohen and answer the other one. Thank you for the question about foresight. Yes, we've definitely been watching their certain parts of our state where we're seeing our case. Our day over day. New case counts. Go up. Um, we're seeing that in some of our more densely populated areas of the state Mecklenburg the Triad, the triangle. But there are also some of our rural counties also, that we're we're paying particularly close attention to as well. So I think there's a number of things going on. Yes, we're doing more testing, as the governor mentioned in his opening remarks. So that is good. Um, we've doing it a lot more testing, we know in the Triad in particular, we knew that was an area of lower testing rate earlier in the pandemic, and we know that we've done a lot more testing there. But it also says we have to be modest and slow in the kinds of activities that were taking because we're seeing more viral spread. When people move around mawr, right? We know that the virus is gonna have more opportunity to spread, which is exactly why we are trying to take thes measured and cautious steps as we open to do it in a way that continues to keep that virus suppression low. Right. So what we don't want to see is something ignite. And then and then lots of folks get sick at the same time and overwhelm our health care system. So we're watching that very carefully again. We work very closely with our hospital systems, track those metrics really closely to make sure that we know what our capacity isn't our health care system. And so as we look at the triad, um, we are looking at those numbers go up and we want to make sure that we're taking all the precautions that we can. Um, and I'd ask folks in those areas to follow the three W's, um, as well as all those businesses to follow the very detailed guidance that our department has has put out Thank you. Thank you. Next question. Jennifer ever. Hi, this is Jennifer Emmert with news 13 wlos. Governor Cooper, can you please explain your decision to make a change in leadership that the division of employment, Security and any new steps that may be taken to get unemployment benefits to those who need them faster? I ordered the park Department of Commerce to make sure that more people got unemployment benefits faster. And the department is taking a number of steps in order to make sure this gets done. Uh, that's just one of those steps that that they have taken. I believe that they're going to continue to work hard because these families need the help. We now have over 620,000 people who are receiving unemployment benefits right now totaling almost $3 billion. But they're still thousands and thousands of people who have yet to receive those benefits. I want to make sure those benefits get into the hands of those people as quickly as possible, not only to help those families hang on, but to help the economy in general. And I believe the Department of Commerce will move toward that goal. Go Thank you. Next question, please. Kate Martin, Carolina Public press. Okay, that afternoon. Governor Cooper, This is Kate Martin with Carolina Public Press. So journalists around the state are records. Requests are languishing for weeks, if not more than a month at agencies, and you're in the administration. Some state officials have promised to cooperate, but have done nothing. Others say they don't have to. Public health officials say transparency from the state government is paramount during a pandemic. Several news organizations are now preparing to soon your administration due to this lack of transparency. Governor, do you think it's acceptable for your administration? Toe, let records request. Get to this point? Well, number one. We want to make sure that we comply with the public records laws, and I want to make sure that every agency and state government does that. Number two. This administration is making a lot of data available, particularly as it relates Toe Cove in 19 and working hard to make sure that that data is available. MAWR Mawr Everything single Day three. These are unprecedented times, and state agencies are stretched to the max in trying to deliver services to state government, sometimes hampered with, Ah, lower workforce, with people being home and people being out. So it is difficult. I want to make sure that these agencies respond to records request. If they say they're not going to get it done, then it better be some reason under the law that they're not going to do it, because I want to see these records provided. And what I'll do is to ask my chief of staff to tell me what's going on of what, what particular records that you may be talking about, that that you want and see if there's something that we can do about it. Thanks. Next question. Police. Michael Highland's CBS 17. Hi Governor, This is Michael Highland from CBS 17 also have a question related to what's happening the Legislature today. The House passed a bill earlier that will make it easier for people to vote absentee and by mail without going to an all vote by mail system. When asked if this bill does ultimately make it to you, if you plan on signing this and if you support the various provisions, thank you, we are. If we've said several times today in unprecedented times, and there will be a number of people who may feel that it is unsafe for them to physically go out and go to the polls and vote. So any legislation that it make would make it easier to do no excuse absentee balloting. Uh, I think is a positive thing. I'd have to look at all of the legislation. I haven't reviewed the latest version, but I do believe that the Legislature and the state Board of Elections should do everything that it can to make sure that people can exercise their constitutional right to vote and also make sure that there are plenty of places for people to go vote, that there's plenty of time for people to go vote and to make sure that our elections are secure. We also need to give them the money to do that. I'm hoping a no legislation is pending to provide funding, and it may be in that particular bill that you're talking about, but they're going to need some more money. For example, poll workers mostly now would be in the at risk category for coded 19 and we may have toe work harder to find people who can be poll workers at the time of the election. That's just one of the many issues that they're having to consider right now. And we need to make sure that we invest in being able to have a fair election process for everybody in North Carolina. Fair secure an election process that we can trust. Thanks. Next question, please. Well, Michael W. Unc Governor Thanks for taking my question. Will Michael's WSC my questions about utility Shut off your original executive order prohibiting utilities from disconnecting service for nonpayment expires on Sunday. The State Utilities Commission has its own order in place, but given that the commission's order does not apply to utilities like electric co op, and given that your order expires in three days, can you say whether you intend to extend that order first? We know that a lot of families are struggling. Now all you have to do is to look at the unemployment figures to to show what this global pandemic has done to the economy. People have been laid off of jobs for ah lot of reasons Related Cove in 19 and we need to try to get help to them. One thing that would be really tough for a family is toe, have power cut off during this period of time, and we are reviewing now all of our options. We do acknowledge that some of the municipalities and some of the co ops have mawr oven issue regarding financial their financial situation. But we've got to put the consumer first, so we're going to take steps in the next few days, toe. Make sure that consumers are protected and we're working on exactly how we're going to do that. We're well aware that this order is running out soon, and we've been talking to all of the interested parties. We want to make sure that people are protected. Thanks. Next question, please. Our final question today will be from Travis saying WRL Yeah, hi, Travis Vein WRL This question is for the commissioner of Prisons back earlier in May, when a plan was scrapped to do mass testing at prisons for prison employees, the reason cited were privacy and safety. I was never clear on what privacy and safety issues there were, and simply having people get swab in a parking lot. Perhaps you could, ah, lay that out a little bit more detail Thank you, Governor. Travis, Thank you for your question. Privacy for our staff is very important. And our prison parking lots in many cases are in direct view of the offender population through windows or when they're outside. Ah, and just based on my 30 years of of experience, I think we owe it to our staff to afford them an opportunity to go through a medical procedure in more of a private setting. Thank you. Thanks very much for tuning in today. And we'll be back with you again soon. Stay safe, everybody. Thank you.