Cooper moves NC into 'modest' second stage of pandemic recovery
Gov. Roy Cooper and state health and safety officials are expected to move North Carolina into the second part of a three-phase coronavirus response plan, allowing restaurants, salons, gyms and other businesses to reopen with restrictions.
we'll in the hospital and sadly, 699 deaths. This virus is still a serious threat to our state. The North Carolinians have made changes and sacrifices in their daily lives, and that has helped to flatten the curve here. That means hospitals and medical and the medical system conserve sick patients effectively for all kinds of illnesses, including covered 19. Last month we lays, we laid out a phased approach to easing restrictions in our state that relied on data science and fax. Two weeks ago, we announced that we were entering Phase one. Today we're announcing another gradual and cautious step while still keeping important health and safety measures in place. We've been closely watching and reporting the North Carolina data on a daily basis, but it's important to watch the trend lines over a 14 day period to determine if our metrics are increasing, decreasing or stable over time. Today, Dr Mandy Cohen, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, will walk through the status of our key indicators, and I'll ask her to come do that now. Dr. Cohen. Yeah. Thank you, Governor. I'm grateful for your commitment to ensuring our state moves forward responsibly based on science and data, your leadership and the collective efforts of North Carolinians have prepared us to move into phase two. At the end of the week, I'll go through the graphs and you'll see that overall, the trends have been stable. But the data also shows us that we need to be cautious and stay vigilant to continue to slow the spread of the virus. As a reminder, we look at a combination of trends that guide our decision making, including looking at Cove it like syndrome, A cases lab confirmed cases positive test as a percentage of total tests and hospitalizations. The's indicators were chosen based on public health data as well as White House guidance. We cannot look at any one of these metrics in isolation. We really need to see them as a whole package when making decisions. And each of these data has limitations on this first graph. We look at people who have come to the emergency department with cove it like symptoms. This metric serves as an early detection mechanism. I want to draw your attention to the yellow line and you'll see towards the right. It is decreasing and this is good news. When we look at laboratory confirmed test and you look at the yellow line, you will see that they are increasing. And although today we had a lower daily new case count with 4400 and 22 new cases last weekend we saw our highest single day increase with 853 new cases in one day. This indicator needs to be interpreted in the context of the additional testing we're doing across the state. We know that as we do more testing, we expect this indicator to rise. But this increase in case count also shows us that the virus is here in our communities across the state. I would have liked to see this trend starting toe level, but it has not yet done that. Now. On this next slide, we look at the percent of tests that are positive and it's important to interpret the last graph you just saw and this graph together. I want to draw your attention again to that yellow line and you can see that the percentage of total tests that are positive has been decreasing and it's starting to level so while we're seeing more positive cases day over day, as we saw in the previous graph with the increasing testing, the percent positive continues to look very good on our next slide here. This is our metric of day over day hospitalizations. This yellow line shows that North Carolina's trajectory of hospitalizations is level. We have the capacity to meet increasing demands if more people become seriously ill. That's also really good. If you notice to the right hand side of that graph, those last few bars show a slight uptick in the past few days, so we'll want to continue to monitor this trend closely. But overall, we're stable on hospitalizations. Finally, a bonus graf again today, providing an update on where we are with testing again. Looking at the Yellow line, you can see that this trend is up. Good news. In the past week, we've made significant progress expanding testing ranging from between 8000 to over 12,000 tests a day. This is really good progress, all right, so here's where we are today. Our surveillance data shows a decline green check. North Carolina's trajectory of laboratory confirmed cases continues to increase. That gets a red X. This rise can be expected as we are doing more testing, but it also signals that we need to take a cautious approach to phase two. North Carolina's trajectory in percent of tests returning positive has been decreasing and starting toe level, which is good news. This gets a green check. North Carolina's trajectory of hospitalizations is level, and we have hospital capacity, though, so that is very good. Also gets a green check. In terms of our other capabilities, we continue to see great improvements. As I just mentioned, we're doing a lot more testing and we have posted lists of testing sites on our website that will be updating on an ongoing basis. As of today, there are over 300 sites listed across North Carolina, but there's more to dio. We're working with counties as well as partners from the private sector to continue to expand. Access to testing across the whole state are working, contact tracing is advancing and the Carolina Community Tracing Collaborative has hired 100 and 52 New tracers were also being very intentional that the tracers who are hired reflect the diversity of the communities they serve. We have now posted on her website. The demographics of those contact tracers hired to date the's staff will help support are very strong local health department folks who are experts at contact tracing. So based on what we're seeing in our testing, tracing and trends, we are moving to phase two. But we need to move in A more cautious way are rising. Case counts indicate that we need to take a more modest step than we would have originally planned. We need to be incredibly vigilant to slow the spread of the virus I want to include by noting that our team launched an updated cove in 19 dashboard on the DHS website today. The interactive dashboard provides an overview of the metrics I just covered, as well as the other capabilities that the status following toe inform our decisions to responsively ease measures that slow the spread of the virus. The updated dashboard includes an enhanced North Carolina map sections on covert like illness, surveillance cases, testing, hospitalization, contact tracing PPE and congregate living settings. Keeping our trends stable still depends on your actions. What you do to protect your loved ones and your neighbors. Remember, people can have Cove in 19 and not have any symptoms. If we don't practice the three W's wear weight and wash, we can unknowingly expose people to the virus. When we wear a face covering wait six feet apart and wash our hands. Often we show our families, friends and neighbors that we care about them. So remember where weight and wash. Thank you, Governor. Thank you, Dr Cohen. Appreciate your leadership. And, ah, we're grateful that you have put these numbers together, and it's something that the people of North Carolina can see for themselves. So, um, because this data shows that we can, North Carolina will move into a safer at home. Phase two on Friday, May 22nd at 5 p.m. Phase two is another careful step forward. Since we announced Phase one. The state's overall key indicators remain stable. However, earthy increases in the cove in 19 cases signal a need to take a more modest step forward and face to than originally envisioned. While I am lifting the stay at home order, we're shifting to a safer at home recommendation, and that's especially important for vulnerable people who are at risk form or severe illness. Teleworking When possible is also highly recommended. Safer at home means just what it says. Just because you can go more places doesn't mean you always should. Now, some businesses and places will remain closed in pay phase two, including bars, nightclubs, gyms and indoor fitness facilities. Indoor entertainment venues such as movie theaters, bowling alleys and museums and public playgrounds. This is because the potential spread of Cove in 19 can be significant there. The mass gathering limits and Phase two will be no more than 10 people indoors or 25 people outdoors, and this applies to event venues, conference centres, stadiums and sports arenas, amphitheaters and groups at parks or beaches. When people gather together, one person can be the spark to spread the virus to many. Now, certain businesses will be able to open at limited capacity. With other requirements, restaurants can reopen for dining customers at mostly a 50% capacity, with distancing and cleaning requirements. Personal care businesses like salons and barbers can also reopen at 50% capacity. These businesses will have face covering and cleaning requirements while also reducing the number of people in the waiting areas. Swimming pools will be able to open at 50% capacity, and overnight and day camps can open with safety rules. Childcare facilities remain open and are now able to enroll all Children. I want to thank our child care centers that have been open. They've been taking enhanced precautions, and they've been providing a critical service. As with previous orders, these restrictions are a floor. Local governments may enact more strict rules of health officials and local leaders believe it's in their best interest and in the best interest of the health of their communities. Now this next phase can help us boost our economy, and that's important. But we can only help our economy when people have confidence in their own safety, which is wides important. Teoh ease restrictions carefully and use data like Dr Cohen was talking about in deciding when to do it. Now I know this virus is appended life for many North Carolinians, especially those who have lost their incomes, and I've directed the Division of Employment Security to improve the efficiency and customer service of the unemployment Bennett benefits process in safer at home, face to the three W's are even mawr important. Wash your hands frequently, wait six feet apart from other people and where a face covering remember the face covering is Maura about protecting other people from your germs in case you have the virus and just don't know it. Yet a face covering signifies strength and compassion. For others, wearing one means that you actually care about other people's health. And I'm proud every day here at the Emergency Operations Center when I see our brave National Guard soldiers and tough Marine Mike Spray Berry using them. Finally, I'd ask us all to be patient and understanding of the front line heroes who running cash registers, driving delivery routes and helping customers, especially those businesses that will just be opening this weekend. Not every restaurant in Salon will be able to open Friday evening, and some may choose, not open at all. Show them the courtesy of patients that they incident as they weigh how to best serve their customers and to stay safe. We owe that to them. And let's keep looking out for our neighbours, thanking our front line workers. Getting some fresh air when we can and working together to defeat this virus with me today is Dr Cohen, our secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services. Our secretary of public safety, Eric Hooks, is with us along with director of emergency management. Mike's Bradbury, Karen Magoon and Nicole Fox are our sign language interpreters and behind the scenes Jackie and Jasmine Motive Ear are spending Spanish language interpreters. So we're gonna take questions from the media. And if you could identify yourself and your organization when you call in, we'll take the 1st 1 The first question will be from Colleen Quigley, W N C n Good Afternoon, Governor. People and everyone. Thanks for taking my question. It's in regards to local law enforcement leaders in passing. They wouldn't enforce parts of your executive orders. What is going to be your message going forward when asking people to keep their businesses, their bar, the restaurants there Salon at 50%. How are you going to make for a bus? Most of law enforcement across this state is doing what they should do and are enforcing the law, and they're doing it in a good way. They're telling people about the order, they're taking complaints from people, and they're going to see people who may be in violation of the water and most North Carolinians are doing their best to follow the orders and doing their best to keep their families and their neighbors safe from this virus. I believe that most of the law enforcement in North Carolina want to keep people healthy, and I think many of them will welcome this cautious move into Phase two. One of the things I've heard from a lot of people is that we need to get our restaurants open and our personal care salons, people getting haircut, those kinds of things that's gonna happen now, and it's going to be done in a safe way. So we hope that everybody can stick together, look out for each other and that most people will follow these orders and will do what they need to do to wash their hands and wear a cloth face covering and wait six feet apart from other people. We still got some work to do in slowing the spread of this virus, and we need all stick together to try to do it. Thanks. Next question. Please. World Hoban, North Carolina. Help News. I governor. So the, um so according toa several what I said to aggregation you know North Carolina still is not meeting the benchmark that by the White House and other places, too. So, you know, open up further what you know, What is it that makes you spoke to feel confident that you can go forward without seeing an uptick in cases? Well, we know that their arm or coveted 19 cases that are being reported part of the reason for that is we're doing a lot more testing. In addition, we have a steady number and a decreasing number off percentage of positive cases. So we don't like that number going up. And that's one of the reasons why we scale back phase two a little bit. But I don't think we agree with the assertion that we're not following that guidance. And I'll let Dr Cohen address that. Thank you, Governor. That's exactly correct. If you look at the White House guidance, it says that we want to see a decrease in our overall surveillance trends. As I went through today, we see that decline. It also says it wants to see either a decrease in your total your day over day case count or your percent positive of your total test being positive. So we are declining on that second and so that White House said, either or actually in their guidance. And so we meet that criteria and the third was making sure that we have that capacity in our health care system and that we are not doing any level of crisis care, which we are not. So we believe we're meeting those metrics. However, as the governor said, We recognize that those day over day counts are increasing slightly. We want to keep our eye on it, which is why we want to take a more modest step forward into Phase two than we were originally contemplating. And I think that's the appropriate measured approach here. It's it's true to the data and the science which says largely our metrics are being met, We are stable, We are meeting the White House criteria. However, we have to recognize this in the context of North Carolina and how we have experienced the virus. I think you know that we had we never experienced a surge or a spike in cases. We don't have a spike. That means you don't see a decline. What we have done successfully is to flatten the curve, which means fewer people get sick at the same time. And that's been very good. And that's what we want to continue to dio. And that's what I think. This this modest next step forward in Phase two will allow us. Now we have to do things like the three W's wearing a face covering, waiting six feet apart and washing hands. But if we all work together, I know that will be able to keep the level of virus low here in our state. Thank you, thank you. Next question. Elizabeth and Brown. Asheville Citizen time. Hello, Dr Cold and Governor Cooper and will Dance a national Citizen Times newspaper Given what we understand about the trajectory of most Kobe 19 cases they can take to the 14 days for symptoms to manifest if they manifest all after infection. Another several days for people to seek medical care and pressing. And then another couple were five days for those samples. Process. How can we know confidently, what's the impact of phase one word before we move into safe to even this? So this is a modest step with that kind of delay in being the data from infections occurred during that time. Wait, thanks for that question. I'll jump in here. Um, it's Mandy Cohen. So we continue to look at the data. And not only have we been looking at it for the past 14 days and phase one, as you know, we've been looking at that these trends and been very transparent with those trends for a long period of time And at what we would say is that we contemplated a two week period for this phase one because we wanted to make sure we saw 1st 1st step forward while we still had the stay at home to remain stable. And I think that's what you've seen in our metrics today, right? We were still in that stay at home phase in phase one, and so we had a longer period of time under phase one toe. Look at our metrics. Um, and make sure that we were stable. This is the time where we're taking the next step forward, As the governor said, lifting the stay at home order, opening some of the additional businesses, and we want to continue to watch that That is why this order will be longer than two weeks. It will go through through Ah, I believe, five weeks so that we can see a longer period of time for these trends as we've taken this next step forward. Thank you. Thank you. Next question, please. Well, on bond news in a Berber Hi, it's Don Juan Centeno. Thanks for taking questions. I have a two part related questions. There's a proposed toe bill in the General Assembly today that they were discussing that would allow 50% capacity seating inside the restaurant. Look in the order that have that separate from additional outdoor seating capacity. Uh, so why not allow that, um, or the inside and outside capacity amounts are different. And then with the restrictions, that restaurant about social distancing and cleaning, How is that going to be regulated or is the only gonna be a complaint driven? Well, first, we've been working closely with the restaurant association and a number of individual restaurants in how they operate. And I'll tell you this there is a a strong desire by the restaurants that they want to do this right because they know that safety precautions will be good for business. So what we've done is to put this 50% capacity across the board in the restaurant. Outside seating is not prohibited. We're making sure that their social distancing in the restaurant and I think that we're going to see people be able to go in and to feel safe about doing this. I haven't seen the legislation. Dr. Cohen, Would you want to address any that I haven't seen the legislation, but I know that this is something that the restaurant Association feels comfortable with. With what we have done with this executive order today, we must take a cautious approach to make sure this works the right way to make sure we continue to keep our curve flattened that we don't encourage spread of this virus. And I think where we are right now is a good place for us to be. Thanks. Next question. Elizabeth Johnson, The Daily Reflector. Hi, Governor. Um, I was wondering so considering the current levels of testing and the time it takes for results to come back, how long will it take for us to know whether or not I'm loosening restrictions is safe or too dangerous? We we look at trends over time and Dr Cohen just want over the trends that we are watching. We like to look at it at 14 day intervals because there could be a real spike or rial drop in cases. And sometimes that's because of the decentralized reporting system that we have in North Carolina. I'm very proud of the emergency operations center in the Corona Virus Task Force team doctor Tilson, Dr Cohen, Mike Spray Berry. They were all worked very hard to get the reporting in from these private labs from the universities from medical centers. And sometimes that information doesn't come in when it's supposed to. So it's important for us to look not just at a daily spike or drop, but at a 14 day trend. And here, during this phase two will have a number of weeks to look at the data. To see where we are will look at all of these trends to gather, and hopefully we can move into Phase three. But do it safely and that's gonna be our guiding star. Here is making sure that we protect the safety and health of North Carolinians. I think this step we're taking today is going to boost our economy, lifting the stay at home order will be a positive thing. But we want people to remember that you are safer at home, that you do need to protect yourself and others. And you need to be careful about what you do. And I think North Carolinians all pulling together. We can keep these numbers in the right place and continue to move forward with this. Thanks. Next question, please. Brie, hand graph the Wilson time. Thank you, Governor. This is Bree with the Wilson Times. My question is regard to buffets specifically, um, the guidance for the buffets is more considered recommendation. So why is things like staff pleading for customers? Why are those recommendations as opposed to requirement? In this order, there are a number of requirements, but they're also recommendations as well. And I'm gonna let Dr Cohen answer that. Thank you, Governor. Yes. We worked as the governor mentioned with the restaurant association to put together quite a comprehensive list of recommendations. There are certain things that we wanted to codify in the executive order to make sure that we're setting a floor a minimum that everyone needed to follow. But we have additional guidance and work with the restaurant association very closely on that involved everything from, ah, how they screen employees, um, and potentially to things like buffets. So we tried to capture all of that in our recommendations is our expectation that folks will follow those recommendations again, cause it because it was developed in that collaborative way. Um, again, the executive order sets the floor for the minimum amount of requirements, but it our expectation that those recommendations are followed. Um, a lot of work went into putting those together to make sure that folks could operate in the in the safest way possible. Thank you. I think all of these businesses will be more successful if they show to the public that they are being safe. And I think that will be good business for them to take thes safety precautions. Next question, please. Carrie Robertson, Associated Press. Hi, governed scary Robertson with AP, could you give us an update on what the order says related to, um uh, religious, um, entities, religious services. Obviously the judge's ruling of the weekend are are you still encouraging? Um, are they exempt? First of all, from this order. And are you still encouraging social distancing worship services are exempt from this order, however, we are still encouraging social distancing, and we have put forth a list of recommendations for people who are in meetings and in worship services, which we think are important. I hope that congregations and leaders throughout North Carolina will think twice about what they're doing. Well, look at these recommendations and follow them for the health and safety of their members. I believe that most of them will. Most all of the major denominations have been doing online services there. Number of churches that have been doing outside services and drive in services. And you hear about the ones that aren't. But the vast vast majority of these congregations across North Carolina are doing the right things to protect their members, and I think that they will keep on doing that and keep on following our guidance. And we we have published that I think today haven't we admit e. So we have published that, and you can look at it to see what the the guidance is for worships of her services throughout the state. Thanks. Next question. Rebecca Martinez, W UNC Hello, Governor Merriest Rebecca from W. UNC The Circle Foundation is identified vulnerable communities for the spread of cove it and recommends prioritizing low prevalence and high vulnerability places like Greenville. Instead of hot spots, which might also have more infrastructure and less vulnerability. I'm wondering if you can share more about how contract tracers, air being the deployed and have our being prioritized. We know it's so important to provide additional help to these vulnerable communities because we're seeing on increase in infection rates in communities of color. And the organization that's putting together the contract contact tracers are selecting people from all kinds of communities because it's important to have good relationships, to be able to trace people and to be able to get them isolated to protect populations. And I know Dr Cohen has been working a lot on that with her testing and tracing teams. So I'm gonna let her talk about some specifics. Sure. Thank you, Governor. The only thing I'd add is to remind folks that in North Carolina we're very lucky in that our public health departments that there are 85 across our state have long done this work of doing contact tracing. We already had 250 folks already deployed across our state to various communities who have been doing this work. We're hoping to even up that further with having even Mawr local public health staff to be able to do this work. And in addition, as the governor mentioned, our collaborative has also been doing hiring and doing hiring in a way to make sure that we're bringing on folks who are from the communities that we know are most impacted by this virus. And so we're taking our time to make sure we get that right. I'm very proud of our team and our diversity Inclusion Council, working closely with our vendors to make sure that that is at the forefront of what we're doing so that we can make sure that the communities not only get the services they need in terms of contact tracing, but it's a trusted source of that service. So that's very important to our work. Thank you. Thanks. Next question, please. All my McCarty, wfm y hi there. This is all know McCarty with CBS Morning news to Thanks for taking my call. Kind of a two part question. So how did you guys determine which types of businesses would remain closed in phase two. And do you have a reopening timeline for businesses like gyms and bars? That may have been originally set to open in phase two, but now will not You know, there are places that likely spread of the virus can occur, and these were places that were closed to start with. I think that we are in a good place by making a cautious move here. And we want Teoh. Look at this time line and to look at our numbers over five weeks, we are concerned about the increasing number of cove it cases that we see in North Carolina. And so we've made the decision to move forward in this way, which we think is is positive as a cautious move. But we know that in many of these places that are indoors and people close to each other and touching items that spread of the virus can likely occur. So we're making a cautious move with this face to anything you want to add. Started going. Okay, thanks. Next question. Please. Actually tally wre Oh, Governor, I was wondering, as we look forward, if you will have planned for Space three. If that's the phase, if there will be other faces if necessary. And you know if you have any timeline or expectation on when the whole state could re open well, you know, most businesses are open now, and I think that's important. To point out, we've eliminated the distinction between essential and non essential businesses. And so we're down to a few businesses that we know that spread of the virus can likely occur. We're working very hard with constituent communities to figure out a plan. For example, we want very much to be able to start school in August, and there are a lot of plans being made about how that will be done. We know that, Ah, lot of sporting teams and concerts arenas want to be able to open, and we're talking to them about the kinds of plans that we would put in place in order to allow them to open, but also to keep people safe. And we'll continue to look at our numbers all along, so phase three would be more. Business is being able to be open and mawr increases on the limits. Well, you would have fewer limits on each of these businesses, and we're working with the business community and health experts looking at what other states air doing listening to the CDC and keeping an eye on these trends and indicators that we put forward. It's hard to predict what things are gonna be like a month from now. That's why we're looking at the science and the data and the fax to guide us in our decision making. So we look forward to hopefully getting through face to and being able to do face three. Will we be able to do open more businesses and have more opportunities for people? But we think that this phase two is a good boost to our economy, while at the same time working to keep people safe. Thanks. Next question, please. Our final question today will be from Kate Martin, Carolina Public Press, the acting governor and Secretary Cohen. Thank you for taking my question. This is Kate Martin with Carolina Public Press. How are the supplies for tests doing, including for slobs and re agent? Do the hospitals have adequate supplies of re agent and other materials to take tests of their patients rather than outsourcing them to corporate labs. It is their consistent access across all parts of the state and help providers. Finally, please tell us what type of restaurant you and your family intend to visit for dining service. And when do you intend to go? Well, we're getting better on having mawr testing supplies every day and mawr opportunities for different kinds of tests. We know that testing and contact tracing are the key elements for us to be able to continue to move forward here. And I'll let, uh, Dr Cohen, and maybe my express very to come up and talk about where we are on our supply chain, but that is continuing to improve. Hadn't decided which restaurant that will go to my life has either been the executive residence or here at the Emergency Operations Center. I've eaten a lot of pizza, so it probably would not be a pizza joint, but that's that's still to be decided. Dr. Cohen, would you want to talk about supplies? Thank you. Thanks, Kate, for the question. So what I would say is we still need to doom or improvement on supply chain. Overall, I think things have gotten a lot better and we're in a much better spot than we had been in the past. What we have heard from some of our hospital laboratories is that some of their private vendors are not coming through in terms of re agents and such, Um, we actually raised that Teoh some leaders at the federal level just yesterday to make sure that they were aware of some of the supply chain issues, At least at the state lab and in our commercial lab. The supply chains have been improving. We've been working with the federal government, tohave, swabs and un such come come to North Carolina. We have only seen a fraction of that. I think the 20% of what we had hoped would come from the federal government has been here to date. But that means we have done sourcing on our own to make sure that we have the, um, the needed supplies so that we can have that for this for North Carolina, and I'd say we have work to Dio. I think I'm really proud of the progress we've made, as I mentioned earlier, but I think we definitely want to see even more testing and then we have to sustain that testing. And so we will continue to do that work with our partners, elevating issues to the federal government and two others to make sure that we're continuing to improve that Ah supply tune to make sure we get what we need here for. Ah, folks in North Carolina. Thank you so much. Thank you for tuning in today. Thank you all for your patience and hard work. You can go to the Department of Health and Human Services website to read the order itself. You can also look at the frequently asked questions, documents and stay safe. Everybody, thank you so much.