Cooper eases pandemic restrictions
In his Sept. 1, 2020, update on the coronavirus outbreak in North Carolina and the state's response to it, Gov. Roy Cooper announces that some virus-related restrictions will be relaxed.
lab confirmed cases 2111 new cases reported since yesterday 953 people in the hospital And sadly 2741 people who have died Our thoughts are with all of those mourning a loved one Overnight heavy rain and central North Carolina led to some swift water rescues Unfortunately there are reports of two Children who were swept away in a car and rescue crews continue an aggressive search to find them We're thankful for our brave first responders who always leap into action during even the most treacherous times And we pray these Children will be found safely on covet After a summer of hard work we've seen North Carolina's key indicators for Cove in 19 remained stable or even decrease in some cases are pause in Phase two was necessary as students returned to school and college campuses Then when our college and universities opened their campuses we did see outbreaks and an increase in cases Some colleges pivoted to full online learning and after several weeks of students back in the classroom we've continued to see our statewide numbers stabilized We're encouraged but cautious stability isn't victory The forest isn't his thick but we're not out of the woods right now 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 Well thank you Governor The past six months have been difficult in the summer was no exception throughout June and in the beginning of July we experienced our highest levels of community transmission cases and then hospitalizations But thanks to the hard work of North Carolinians especially with wearing face coverings we saw those trends stabilize and begin to move downward while the back to school season provided new opportunities for the virus to spread And we did see outbreaks at our universities our overall metrics So signs of stability your hard work is having an impact And we must keep working together to continue this progress Now as a reminder we look at a combination of trend metrics We look at Covad like syndrome a cases lab confirmed cases positive tests as a percentage of total tests and hospitalizations No one metric Comptel the full story of viral spread in North Carolina Okay so let's look at the graphs this first graph looks at people who come to the emergency department with cove it like symptoms This is the most timely data we have and it's our earliest detection mechanism Taking a look at the Yellow Line you can see this trend has now been declining for over a month That's an encouraging and very positive sign although you can see that that trend remains high above its baseline Next we look at laboratory confirmed 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 focusing on that yellow line you can see that our highest peak of new cases was back in mid July and then the trend had been decreasing In mid August we saw an increase in new cases among 18 to 24 year olds When colleges and universities opened And while young adults are at less risk of severe illness or needing hospitalisation they can still spread the virus So we're watching this trend really closely but let's zoom in to get a better sense of the current picture Okay so now you're seeing lab confirmed cases just since July 1st So on this graph we again see that yellow line is highest back in mid July when we had our peak of new cases than the Yellow line trended downward in mid August that line ticked up when the colleges reopened You can then see the yellow line floats back down and our cases are stabilizing over the past 14 days But our new cases remain at a high at a level that is too high Today We have over 2000 new cases So whether you are a college student or not we need us all to focus on the three W's and slowing the spread of the virus Okay now we look at the percent of tests that are positive Looking at the yellow line you can see that that percent of total tested positive has remained stable While stability is a positive sign I still want to see these numbers down to 5% or less Next for hospitalization from Covic you can see that the yellow line is trending down which is a positive sign Our hospitalization numbers have been on the decline since they peaked in late July and while we still have an elevated level of hospitalizations We continue to have sufficient hospital capacity Okay so here's where we are Our surveillance data is declining though it remains elevated so it gets a yellow line North Carolina's trajectory of lab confirmed cases is stable but the number of cases per day remains high so it gets a yellow line North Carolina's trajectory in percent of tests returning positive is stable again Gets a yellow line as we'd like to see this number at 5% or below and the North Carolina's trajectory of hospitalization is declining But it's still elevated and we continue to have enough hospital capacity This also gets a yellow line now to our capacity indicators You'll notice testing gets a side word sideways arrow We have testing capacity Interstate and people are getting test results faster averaging about two days However fewer people are getting tested so I want to remind folks that anyone who has symptoms or has or thinks they may have been exposed should get tested There are supports available to help people who may face challenges and being able to miss work or safely stay at home for contact tracing We continue to hire contact tracers to bolster the efforts of our local health department and our PPE supplies remained stable and we continue to distribute PPE across the state So as we have taken steps forward as we are going to take some steps forward today it's important to remember that moving forward doesn't mean letting up It's the actions of all of us that have gotten us to this point But letting up in those preventative actions especially the three W's could erase all that progress Later this week I'll share our new public health campaign that will share why North Carolinians are getting behind the Mass So stay tuned on Thursday and as flu season approaches there's another preventive measure I'm gonna urge all North Carolinians to do and that's get your flu shot Flu can be serious sometimes deadly and this year with another dangerous respiratory virus spreading at the same time and our medical system already working overtime it's more important than ever to avoid getting sick Avoid getting sick by getting your flu vaccine The unfortunate truth is that this pandemic is not yet over While we're all forced false forced to live alongside this virus we can all take simple actions that will allow us to keep taking steps to protect our communities reignite the economy and getting back to the things we love Those actions are the three W's wearing a face covering over your nose and mouth waiting 6 ft apart and washing your hands often That's where weight and wash Thank you Governor Thanks so much Dr Cohen Appreciate your leadership We're encouraged to see North Carolina holding steady on most and decreasing on some of our key data metrics North Carolinians most of you are showing you know how to fight this disease and most of you should be proud of yourselves Remember every time you wear your mask or social distance you're helping our statewide number so we can ease restrictions You're protecting people known and unknown You're saving lives and you're slowing the spread of this virus Because of our stable numbers Today we're ready to take a careful step forward North Carolina will move into safer at home phase 2.5 beginning this Friday September the fourth at 5 p.m. Here's what will happen first are at risk Population is still safer at home for those over 65 those with health risk We urge responsibility in your choices The limits on mass gatherings will increase to 25 people indoors and 50 people outdoors Playgrounds will be allowed to open museums and aquariums can open at 50% Capacity Gems and other indoor exercise facilities can open at 30% capacity The age requirement for mask wearing will include Children down to age five Capacity limits at restaurants and personal care businesses like hair and nail salons will remain the same For all of these there will be additional safety measures required Some places will remain closed including bars nightclubs movie theaters indoor entertainment and amusement parks And large venues will still be subject to the mass gathering limits We know that big gatherings are among the most dangerous settings for transmission of this deadly disease Also as we announced yesterday the 11 p.m. curfew on alcohol sales at restaurants has been extended to October The second safer at home phase 2.5 continues our state's dimmer switch approach to easing some restrictions I want to be clear We can do this safely on Lee if we keep doing what we know works wearing mass and social distancing Losing Moving to face 2.5 means that we can safely do a few more things while still fighting the virus as vigorously as ever In fact a new phase is exactly when we need to take this virus even more seriously Wear a face mask wash your hands make sure that you're waiting 6 ft apart These things have never been more important And until we have a vaccine or reliable cure the precautions like the three W's are with us for a while Life may look a little different these days but every time we were a mask we help our economy By slowing the spread we make it safer to visit our favorite stores and restaurants and other businesses Wearing a mask is an easy way to look out for people I've seen the tremendous things that North Carolinians will do to take care of each other after a storm of flood even an earthquake or a local crisis a mask that's not hard at all Compared to the links I've seen North Carolinians go to help each other so let's keep doing what we know works Let's stay strong and let's beat this virus I know we can and I know that we can come out stronger on the other side along with Secretary Cohen Also with me today is our secretary of public safety Eric Hooks and our emergency management director Mike Spray Berry Jennifer Boyd and Brian Tipton are our sign language interpreters and behind the scenes Jackie and Jasmine motivator our Spanish language interpreters We will now take questions from the media and if you can make sure you identify yourself and the organization you represent we would appreciate it And we'll take our first question Our first question is from Gary Robertson with The Associated Press They got hurt Scary Robertson uhm on Ah not a tangential topic but actually the Legislature's coming back tomorrow and you may have seen bits and pieces now off the package covert relief package that they have which would include giving about $300 to each family and direct payments and also expanding eligibility for opportunity scholarships I wanted to know what you thought about the package given what you know about it and whether you have concerns or support for it Thank you I haven't seen anything at all about it And Gary I understand they unveiled it this afternoon We will read it very carefully We want to keep the health and safety of North Carolinians as the first priority and we'll certainly work with them as the process goes along I hope that they will continue to look at the budget that I person It will certainly look at what they have presented this afternoon and hopefully we can come up with a package that will be positive for North Carolina Next question Police Our next question is from Kenny Back with W X II Good afternoon Governor Kenny Back WX II Thanks for taking my call Dr Cohen reference the fact that there was a little bit of a surge of spike in cases in mid August particularly among younger people with back to college season I'm curious Is she And are you anticipating another spike once we enter phase 2.5 Starting on product Well first one of the reasons that we paused in Phase two was the fact that we knew that our public schools K through 12 and our colleges and universities were opening and we anticipated some virus spread If we continue doing what we need to do with wearing a mask and social distancing and washing your hands Uh these careful movement forward should not affect the viral spread because we know that it's going to be important for people to keep working hard And we've taken some to a few steps here to continue with our dimmer switch approach We know that as we go into the fallen little it will get colder And Dr Cohen reminded you about the flu shot It's gonna be important for people to look after each other and take the steps to protect each other where we believe that things can continue to improve We want to drive those numbers down And I think we can do that doing the things we know that work Cohen would you want to eat something Okay Next question please Our next question is from Reuben Jones with Spectra news Governor Good afternoon This is Reuben Jones Inspector news in Charlotte Can you elaborate on how you reach that 30% capacity for gyms And what is your message to bar owners who are now going on As you say about six months of not being able to open what their future is Aziz A move forward here Thank you First we know that places where you do exercise indoors that the virus can be spread And it's one of the reasons that capacity was limited to 30% And I I'll let Dr Cohen explained a little bit about how they came to that Uh we know that some businesses are still closed and that people are hurting And the more we can do to slow the spread of this virus the faster we can turn this Demas witch on and let everything open The problem is if people don't do things to slow the spread like wearing a mask and social distancing we're going to continue to have to be careful I know we're working hard to do things to boost the economy to put money in place to help small businesses and the federal relief package has done that We've worked hard to provide unemployment benefits but I think the thing that I want everybody to do is to work hard so that all of these businesses can be open dot Cohen Would you like to say a word or two about the gym's well thanks Ruben So important to know that the activities that were easing restrictions on today you know we wanted to make sure that we had safety protocols in place because these are activities that have the chance of more viral spread We've talked about before how gyms are places where folks are breathing heavier and then are thus expelling more viral respiratory droplets And it's just a higher likelihood that virus could spread So we felt we wanted to be more restrictive than we had been say with some of our restaurants or retail that are at 50% capacity We wanted to be a bit more restrictive so he said 30% capacity But I wanted to take the opportunity remind folks that just because we're easing restrictions on Jim's does not mean that's the right choice for everyone I want to remind folks to think about their own personal health risk or their families Health risk We know that more than half of adults in North Carolina have at least one chronic disease that puts them at higher risk for severe illness from Cove it So I would say to make sure that you are thinking about do you have underlying asthma or diabetes or high blood pressure Is someone in your family fighting off cancer Are you over 65 Those are the kinds of things you want to be thinking about when you make decisions about doing any higher risk activity Jim's is one of them But of course we want everyone to be taking the precautions they need I think if we all continue to focus as the governor said on the three W's we can continue to make progress while easing restrictions on some of these higher risk for viral spread activities Thanks Next question please Our next question is from Derek Bellenger with Fox 46 Thank you for taking my question Actually have two questions uh both of which would either be for the governor or for Dr Cohen If either one must answer this The metrics are exactly where everyone wants them to be Uneven Dr Toland said This Why going to face 2.5 right now First second question has to do What is some of the things that we've got as actually a couple of hours ago from the White House Officials are saying that they are advising college presidents in the states that do have outbreaks least on their campuses to keep the Copa defective students on campus or risk another major outbreak When whenever they go back home What is your reasoning Heater As far as the conversations that you're having with university officials as to how they're going to be managing the outbreaks and how they're gonna be keeping students as to why we want to move Teoh face 2.5 1st The numbers are stable and some of them are declining So there that's positive We also want to do things to spur our economy to encourage people to exercise at the same time So this is a dimmers which careful step that we're making that we hope we can continue to keep the decline moving downward and still be able to turn the dimmer switch up And we believe that that can work We want our students and our faculty and their families all to be safe on campuses and I'll let Dr Cohen address that issue Thank you So on the first issue I want to remind folks that you need to look at all of the metrics that we consider as we make decisions as and as I went through earlier If we look at four metrics we and we see some positive signs in those particularly in our early surveillance data the fact that that has had a steady than and decline for over a month is a very encouraging and positive sign The fact that our hospitalizations are declining that is very positive sign The fact that our percent of tests that are positive has been very steady is a positive sign I think we do need to watch our cases closely Um and it speaks to your second question about our university campuses I think we need to work um with with our universities And I know they are working hard to step up the the work to both enforce the executive orders on and off their campus as far as keeping students on campus if they're positive that is very much in line with our guidance when we work with our institutes of higher education One of the things I've articulated to them personally myself is about having students who are positive or are exposed staying on campus We want to make sure that virus is able to be contained and that it doesn't go into the community now if a a student and and family does want to take their student home we understand that But then we want to make sure that they know the risks and are taking all the precautions that they need Teoh We don't want a student to go home to their family back to their parents who are older May have chronic conditions spread the virus there and get get their home sick were their community Six So we are very much in line with the guidance that was articulated about wanting to keep students who are positive on campus until they're able to be well again So in order to contain the virus thank you Thanks Next question Police Our next question is from Rebecca Martinez with W UNC Hello Governor of Rebeca Martinez from W U N C At the North Carolina Supreme Court is considering a lawsuit by owners bowling alleys who say they should be allowed to reopen argue being allowed to reopen under phase 2.5 Yes they are allowed to be open under phase 2.5 with certain restrictions and 30% capacity And uh this is part of the indoor exercise movement forward that we're making with this face 2.5 Next question please follow up Rebeca Martinez WMD Thank you Rebecca Again this is a question for Secretary Dr Cohen Um I understand that the number of Children who have been diagnosed with an A Yes he has risen to 25 I'm wondering how are those cases being tested or diagnosed What What Screening information Should families of kids who have covered 19 bear in mind Rebecca Thanks for that question First I want to say that this multi inflammatory system and Children that we're seeing related to Cove it is very very rare As you're saying 25 cases in this entire time time period Eso I want parents to be assured that it's a very rare outcome And but what we want to be sure is that when your child is having symptoms of fever or cough or having any unusual symptoms that should get in touch with your pediatrician because it is the pediatrician working closely with our department where we go through a criteria to understand Could this be that multi system inflammatory disease and again very rare Something we work through with pediatricians and our public health experts What I would say to any parent who is concerned about their child's health make sure to get in touch with your pediatrician as a first step Thanks Thank you Next question please Our next question is from Lucille Sherman with the news and Observer I governor of this is we feel Sherman with the Mnla Thanks for taking my question Um if the number of cases new cases every day is still too high But you don't expect a new spike in paid 2.5 Why didn't you open gyms earlier Maybe with a reduced capacity even lower than 30% Because our numbers had been stable or declining depending on which metric that you looked at for quite a period of time And in keeping with our dimmer switch approach we thought that it was time to go ahead and move toward this We think it's positive movement We think it can help to boost our economy in a safe way And we believed that we had put like six weeks six weeks on this last order and we felt like that we were at a point where we could go ahead and do what we were planning to do and make it effective as of this Friday Next question Please follow up Lucille Sherman using observer Thanks I've noticed quite a few Jen's opened sort of Despite the orders anyway why not invest more time and enforcement of that If many Germans were opening before you allowed them to open with this order First A lot of businesses are obeying the law and we appreciate that one of the exceptions that allowed Jim's toe open even under the previous order I was having the doctor approved exercise at an indoor gym for one of their customers So a number of Jim's were open toe handle that traffic of people who were getting notes from their doctors so some of them were open But we expect the businesses to obey the rules I think this is important not only for their customers but for their own staff to make sure that they obey these rules and we expect that they will going forward Next question please Our next question is from Richard Craver with the Winston Salem Journal Yes Ah Hello governor This is Richard crazy with the Winston Salem Journal with the face 2.5 opening You're talking about opening playgrounds How does this effect both against college athletics And I guess club and high school athletics Is this gonna be a situation where people will be allowed to gather and numbers of 50 outdoors Is that basically permit sports events like football soccer Um anything outdoors of that nature We've made recommendations to both colleges in the North Carolina High School Athletic Association that have made decisions about sports going forward or the crowd limitations would be the same for both But Dr Cohen I know has worked with both of those And would you like to expound on that doctor code Hi Richard So nothing in this new movement to phase 2.5 changes anything related to athletics Currently we have recommendations for athletics to say particularly for college and use sports to not have any contact sports That is our recommendation What the governor was mentioning is in terms of Spectators at those sports So if you were having for example a tennis match um which is a non contact sport you can now according to mass gathering rules that have now just been extended Could have up to 50 people at Ah you know as long as they were social distance Hopefully we're wearing masks Um could be outdoors watching something like that again for professional sports for collegiate division 12 and three sports They are governed by different regulatory bodies and we have worked closely with them on those guidances But for our guidance that impacts high school sports and youth sports we continue to say no to recommend no contact sports But now because of mass gathering limits you can have spectator that those non contact sports Thank you Thank you Next question Police follow up Richard Craver Winston Salem Journal Yes Um Secretary Cohen let me give you a specific example and see if this might help answer my question So you're talking about a sport Um se like soccer And there's a specific number of like if you're talking about 17 18 year old players or maybe 18 to 20 players on the team and then about time you add coaches in or in referees and things like that you probably getting pretty close to that 50 number So in that instance is their ability to have Spectators actually be at the advance if you're already approaching it The kiss from the participants Thanks for that Yes we have considered the folks who are playing on the field different from the Spectators so that that you wouldn't CAFTA count the players against the Spectators But I think more importantly is the example you gave for soccer It is a contact sport so that would be high school contact sports which again we were saying that we do not recommend those at this time particularly since we're seeing the vast majority of our schools And our high schools aren't even having in person instruction I know the High School Athletic Association which govern this has already postponed the sporting events for for those contact sports And so again the more progress we can make here with our numbers Right as we drive our virus level lower that means more kids are going to go back to in person instruction again They're already able to do that but school districts have chosen to do online instruction way envision more kids will be back in the classroom and then we can think about what What should we do related to high school sports Thanks Next question please Our next question is from Travis being with wre Oh hi Travis Train WRL Thank you I get to and if I could first the FDA has approved some quick testing strips that look like they're gonna be cheek Ah and look like they're going to produce results very quickly Are we ordering those so that when will we start to see those impact us here in North Carolina and also on the nursing home Change I just want to be clear you This is the first time since March We're allowing visit at nursing homes but they have to be outdoors I want to make sure I'm understanding that correctly And then also asked why not allowed group activities that those homes if they could be outdoors and socially distance That's the way I read Order that it allows visits but not the group activities Thank you for that question First we want mawr testing if it is affected And these quicker tests can be used for certain things like screening which we think could be a positive thing What Dr Cho and talk about the specifics of that as to a nursing home visitation We know that this separation has been so hard for families We also know that it's important to protect nursing home residents and staff from the virus And I think Dr Cohen will step up and outline to you very specific steps that would be taken for outside visitation in order for people to be able to see each other in a safe way And I'll let Dr Cohen address both those issues Hi Travis I think you were referring to the new abbot rapid tests that were just approved last week What we are understanding is actually the federal government has bought up the supply for the next several months of the abbot test But they're sharing with us that they're going to be um allocating those The states were trying to still get more information on How is that allocation gonna work How many of coming And then how would we distribute that here within North Carolina So I think still a lot more to learn there and again another tool in our tool belt in terms of testing As the governor said We want to increase testing If we can get faster rapid results that are accurate that is a good thing But I think I still want to do some more understanding of of what is actually going to come here to North Carolina and then how do we distribute those Those tests still need to be administered by a health care professional in a lab setting so we do need to work out logistics of who's going to get get what here in North Carolina So stay tuned as we learn more from the federal government on that at as far as skilled nursing facilities you are right that we're moving forward with outdoor visitations At this point we were allowing outdoor visitations for other long term care facilities but we had not allowed that yet at skilled nursing facilities As you know those are folks who are our most medically frail and we've been working very very hard to protect them at this very very challenging time We know this is virus can attack those who are medically frail and be very severe So we've been trying to find this balance of protection but also recognizing that this visitation is part of of leading a full and complete life And so we're trying to find that balance here with allowing for outdoor visitation and I think we want to take this one step at a time So we want to facilitate these outdoor visits with with families We interact with advocates and families and the the facilities all the time and then we hope to be able to think about what could we do next But let's take one step at a time to make sure we can continue to keep the residents of our skilled nursing facilities safe and to keep the virus out of those settings Thank you Next question please Our next question is from Christy O Connor with wbtv Hi Governor This of course the O'Connor from WB TV and Charlotte There were a lot of boutique fitness studios in this area in which they would be classes that wouldn't have more than 25 people indoors I was wondering for these specific studios would they be allowed to operate as long as they stayed under that indoor mass gathering of 25 people Or would they to have to operate at 30% capacity meaning only seven or eight people in that class What happened operated certain restrictions But I'll let Dr Cohen address that Hi there is going to depend on the physical layout of some of these dance studios or yoga studios or other indoor fitness So I would say we should follow up off line with our teams in In our guidance are specifics around What does 30% mean sometimes that has to do with the fire code capacity Sometimes that has to do with number of people for for the given space So it would depend on um on the particular physical layout What I would encourage folks to do it is for those kinds of indoor group activities You want to make sure that you're going to be able to space out right You're going to want to have extra space between folks so operating at maximum capacity is not what we want Here We want folks to take the precautions that they need keep each other safe Um and make sure that we are are all making good decisions personally again just because we are opening ah of gyms and indoor fitness that might not be right for everyone So again I encourage folks to think about their own personal health risk their family's risk in terms of how they're making decisions about what to participate in Thanks Thank you Next question please Our next question is from Kate Martin with Carolina Public Price Good afternoon Governor This is Kate Martin with Carolina Public Press On the streets of many college towns around the state groups of students are congregating in party buses where they drink alcohol in close proximity without masks Is this legal under the state's current executive orders and if so why Well first the mass gathering limitation would apply to college students whether they are owner off campus and we want to discourage that Secondly we want people to be wearing mass and to be social distance and in order to do that it will help us slow the spread of the virus And we are encouraging our college campuses those leaders as well as local law enforcement in those college towns to enforce these orders We think it's probably Mawr important than ever that they do enforce these orders in order to slow the spread Would you want to add anything to that next question Police follow up Kate Margin Carolina Public Press Hi Governor With all due for stuff you didn't really answer The question is whether the party buses are legal or not Under the current executive order Thank you So would depend on how many people are there whether they were wearing masks whether they were social distancing We want them to abide by the mass gathering limits There may be local ordinances on whether you ought to have alcohol in a certain place It would depend on the specific circumstances Next question please Our final question today is from Erik Sandberg with Charlotte Business Journal Governor Eric Bamberg and Charlotte You went over some of the crowd limit Uh and uh some of the youth and high school sports doctor going did I'm serious This waste the Carolina Panthers It would not be able to have fans a to the home opener next week for college and professional Spectators towards what specific criteria does your administration have in mind to determine women It will be safe for Spectators to attend sporting event again So you're looking at a big sports fan right here I love sports I want people people eventually to be able to get back into stadiums and auditoriums and cheering their teams on We also know that one of the ways that this virus spreads so rapidly is when people get together So the idea is right now that even though thes teams can allow be allowed to play and the referees and whatever support staff that need that are needed for the teams to be able to play we're all going to keep the fans to the mass gathering limit in order to be able to slow the spread of the virus We're gonna have to look at our trends and indicators as we go along to determine when that might be possible I know that most of the NFL teams right now are saying no fans for their first few games That's prudent And so we're hoping that as we make these decisions going forward that we can continue to do those things that we need to do with wearing face coverings and social distancing and washing hands in order to drive the virus spread down so that we can do more of that Thank you all for being with us today and stay safe out there