Local News

Gov. Cooper COVID-19 update coming as NC records highest case numbers yet

Posted November 21, 2020 1:09 p.m. EST
Updated November 23, 2020 8:11 a.m. EST

North Carolina reported its highest number of new coronavirus cases -- 4,514 -- on Sunday as more people get tested before Thanksgiving.

Gov. Roy Cooper will hold a press conference Monday afternoon. After limiting indoor gatherings from 25 to 10 people, the governor said last week that, if numbers don't improve, some new restrictions might need to be enacted.

“We will do what we need to do in order to protect the health and safety of North Carolinians," he said. "We have done that in the past. We will do that in the future."

The concerning number is not only the state's highest daily total to date but an unusually high number for a weekend day, when fewer people usually get tested. State-run and private testing sites alike have reported long lines and a surplus of people trying to get tested the weekend before Thanksgiving.

A spokesperson for the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services released the following statement about Sunday's record-breaking cases.

"Our cases are very high, much higher than we want them to be," the statement read. "We have higher numbers of people being admitted to the hospital for COVID-19 and our highest numbers of people in the ICU for COVID-19. Our hospitals are starting to feel the strain. With the first vaccine being submitted for authorization, there is light at the end of the tunnel, but we have important work to do right now to slow the spread of the virus and save lives."

The NCDHHS also urged families to celebrate Thanksgiving differently by not traveling and by dining only with those you live with -- advice also issued by the CDC. The state warned that, while getting a COVID-19 test before the holiday is a good idea, a negative test doesn't mean you're in the clear.

"If you test negative, that is not a definitive answer or a free pass," the state said. "Act as if you could have COVID and could be contagious. Wear a face mask over your mouth and nose. Wait 6 feet apart. Wash your hands often."

Sunday marked the sixth straight day in a row that over 1,500 people were hospitalized with coronavirus and the 47th straight day that over 1,000 people were hospitalized.

The death toll of the coronavirus topped 5,000 in North Carolina Saturday, when 26 deaths were reported, bringing the state total to 5,005.

The daily average number of deaths has been rising steadily since Nov. 12 and is on par with the highest rate to date.

The grim milestone came as deaths across the country are peaking. Over the past week, the United States has lost more than 1,300 people per day, a rate not seen since the spring, when the virus gripped New York City.

North Carolina reported 3,415 new cases Saturday, down a touch from the day before, but weekends often see lower reporting. The state is averaging more than 3,300 cases per day over the past week.

The good news is North Carolina’s percent of positive tests has dropped to 7.1%. That’s the lowest it’s been in over two weeks.

With more than 330,000 cases since the pandemic began, North Carolina ranks 10th in the nation and has a similar case count to Tennessee and Ohio.

The CDC’s Dr. Erin Sauber-Schatz cited more than 1 million new cases in the U.S. over the past week as the reason for the new guidance.

“The safest way to celebrate Thanksgiving this year is at home with the people in your household,” she said.

If families do decide to include returning college students, military members or others for turkey and stuffing, the CDC is recommending that the hosts take added precautions: Gatherings should be outdoors if possible, with people keeping 6 feet apart and wearing masks and just one person serving the food.

Earlier this week, Gov. Roy Cooper suggested behaviors such as crowds gathering and not wearing masks are driving coronavirus numbers up. “If we could get people to comply, we could push down these numbers,” said Cooper in a press conference. “That’s been our effort over the last several weeks to get people to comply.

Cooper extended Phase 3 of North Carolina’s reopening plan until Dec. 4 but said it’s possible officials may take action before then.

Reported COVID-19 hospitalizations in NC

The count of patients currently hospitalized is reported daily by the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services and reflects of a daily survey of hospitals. Because the response rate of that survey varies day to day, we're showing a rolling 7-day average of hospitalizations calculated since the state began reporting numbers consistently on March 24.

Source: N.C. DHHS
Graphic: Tyler Dukes, WRAL
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