NC to provide, pay for coronavirus tests for all staff, residents of private nursing homes
State public health and safety officials provide a June 30, 2020, update on the coronavirus outbreak in North Carolina and the state's response to it.
good afternoon. I'm Andy Cohen. I'm the secretary of Health and human services for North Carolina, and I'm joined today by Director of Emergency Management. Mike's Bayberry. Karen Magoon and Cameron Larson are American sign language interpreters and working behind the scenes are Spanish translators Jackie and Jasmine. Motive. Here I'll start with a rundown of the numbers. As of this morning, there were 64,670 lab Pretoria confirmed cases, 908 people currently hospitalize. And sadly, there have been 1343 deaths since the start of the pandemic. We have worked hard to protect those at high risk of serious complications from Cove in 19 older North Carolinians have been hard hit by this virus, and residents of long term care facilities are particularly vulnerable. Early on, we formed a long term care team of for Cove in 19 response, dedicated to working with facilities, local health departments, industry associations, advocacy groups, hospitals and others on a multi pronged strategy of prevention, capacity testing and managing outbreaks in oversight. Given the risks, the governor took aggressive preventive measures beginning back in March with restricting visitation and communal activities and require employees to be screened and monitoring of residents. We also paid for and delivered to all of our state licensed long term care facilities a 14 day supply of personal protective equipment to support facilities as they built up their own PPE supply networks. And we've provided temporary rate increases to help them meet the Enhanced Cove in 19 infection particles. We've also help facilities address staffing shortages by providing temporary workers from the state and provided ongoing training and assistance on infection prevention and control measures. In our oversight role, the Department of Health and Human Services is surveying all nursing homes on infection control. Testing is also a key part of our strategy. Currently, all residents and staff are tested when there is one case of cove it in a long term care setting. We also have begun proactive testing of all staff and residents in nursing homes. We have completed this proactive testing in all state run skilled nursing facilities and beginning next week, DHHS Health and Human Services will pay for and deploy proactive testing of staff and residents in all private nursing homes. We're announcing today that DHHS is partnering with CVS Omnicare for one Time Cove in 19 testing of all residents and all staff in nursing homes across North Carolina. This effort will extend through the middle of August and reached an estimated 36,000 residents and 25,000 staff in over 400 nursing homes in the state. This testing will provide another tool to further protect those who are at higher risk. While we continue to expand testing, it is important to note that commercial and hospital labs across the country, including here in North Carolina, are again running into shortages of important chemicals called re agents that are needed to process tests. As a result, labs are seeing backups in processing samples and are taking longer to provide results. Federal action is needed to help address thes supply issues. The part of the department's work is only part of the equation. Everyone needs to play their part to protect their health and the health of our loved ones. And our neighbors, including those older North Carolinians, by wearing a face covering face coverings are effective when everyone wears them, which is why we took the important step of requiring them in public spaces. Many people who have cove in 19. Don't show any symptoms right away. You may have the virus right now and not know it. When you wear a face covering, you protect others around you. That could be someone who works in a nursing home, who also happens to shop at your local grocery store or eats at your favorite restaurant. By protecting them, they're less likely to catch the virus and risk spreading it to those they care for in nursing homes. This is so important because we know that once the virus finds its way into a nursing home, it can spread rapidly with devastating consequences for residents. Additionally, as you think ahead to this July 4th weekend, make sure you are planning for ways to celebrate that. Involve wearing a face covering, avoiding large crowds and washing your hands. Often, we need to keep this virus from spreading. Further states like Arizona, Texas, Florida and others are cautionary tales that show us this virus can surge and Serge quickly are measured. Approach here in North Carolina is help as helping to protect all North Carolinians. We don't want to go backwards, and we won't need to if we work together on the three W's where Wait and wash. Please continue to take care of yourself and those around you. And with that, I'll turn it over to director Mike Spay Bray. Thank you, Madam Secretary in good afternoon. Today is Day 113 of the State Emergency Operation Centers Cove in 19. Response. I'm taking this opportunity to thank local health directors and emergency managers. We appreciate your hard work. Since Secretary Cohen has been discussing long term care facilities, I want to share some numbers from the PPE distribution we recently completed to more than 3800 long term care facilities across the state. Items provided to long term care homes included more than 1.5 million procedural mask, 6.7 million gloves, 649,000 face shields, 607,000 shoe covers, along with supplies of hand sanitizer, adult care homes, family care homes, nursing hair homes, intermediate care facilities for individuals with intellectual disabilities and mental health facilities received these supplies, and many told us how grateful they were to get him. We thank our partners from the National Guard and Civil Air Patrol, as well as the local emergency managers who helped plan and operate these distribution points. There are still 274 National Guard members, with 59 vehicles activated for the Cove in 19 response, supporting everything from feeding, operations, planning, cyber protection, warehousing and transportation. We thank these men and women for their outstanding service. As we move deeper into hurricane season, we're pleased to announce that FEMA and the North Carolina Department of Public Safety have approved a state operated Hazard mitigation grant program. The plan focuses on buying out or elevating storm flooded homes utilising available hazard mitigation funded awarded to state after hurricanes Florence and Dorian, as well as Tropical Storm Michael. The intent of the program is for the state to take on more of the contract management using area contractors to do both acquisition and elevation work, which will ease the administrative burden on our counties with a goal of delivering relief, the disaster survivors quicker. Yesterday we requested the FEMA Crisis Counseling Regular Services program, which will provide expanded crisis counseling during the pandemic. Back on June 15th we received notice that FEMA had granted the state's request for immediate crisis counseling services with a $1.5 million grant to expand Hope for North Carolina counseling program This next phase of support that we've requested will allow us to further expand crisis counselling and support services for those struggling during the Cove in 19 Pandemic. Remember the hope for NC help line is 18555873463 again 18555873463 you can call day or night for support. We've also requested another one month extension for the FEMA non congregate sheltering program, counties that are using that program now to shelter more than 1100 people in hotels who need isolation or quarantine to stop the spread of the virus. We plan to continue this program as long as it's available and needed. The state emergency response team is still aggressively pushing PPE to hospitals, long term care facilities, first responders and others on a daily basis. Just yesterday we delivered PPE to 59 counties and one health care preparedness coalition. We also received 155 requests for PPE. These are busy times for our source er's purchasers, warehouse teams and drivers, and we thank him so much for their great work. The search team continues to identify both non congregants and congregate shelters for hurricane season 2020. We want our residents in hurricane and flood prone areas to know the best plan in case of a required evacuation this year, is to stay with family or friends at a safe place inland or at a hotel. A shelter will not be your best option in the cove in 19 environment. Lastly, let's remember to observe the three ws where a cloth face covering wait at least six feet apart and wash your hands often, like Secretary Cohen says, where weight and wash it's scientifically proven. This is how we slow the spread of the virus by working collectively together is always. Don't forget to look out for your family, friends and neighbors, and to call your loved ones daily, guaranteed. They'll appreciate it with kindness and cooperation. We will all get through this together as one team, one mission and one family. Now back to Madame Secretary for questions and answers. Terrific. Well, thank you, Director Spray Berry. And with that, we'll open for questions. Five. If you have a follow up we'll take our first question from the Joedy McCreary at CVS 17. Yes, Dr Colin, I wanted to ask. We're looking at some of the percentage of the share of death involving going down in the past month. Let me get over. Explain our nursing, them doing anything better. Now what improvements Have you seen being made in sort of how Nursing homes or and one cove in 19? Sorry, I you were a little garbled there, So maybe we'll try again. Something about death rates. Just I apologize. I didn't catch the second half. Looking for the share of deaths. Nursing times over the past month has has gone down compared to the total number of deaths. It was wondering if there was an explanation, but doing something better Have there been improvements made? What do you attribute the improvements in those situations? Thanks for that question. And so I think we're asking is that you're seeing that the percentage of deaths from notion comes go down relative to others. And what you heard me talk about today was the importance of all of the things that we're doing to protect folks in our long term care settings, including nursing homes on and that we're going to be doing even more proactive testing. We've been working to protect folks for a very long time. They are some of our most vulnerable and high risk folks. They're medically frail. We know this virus is more vicious to those that are over the age of 75. I was looking at studies today. The show that the unfortunately, the mortality rate, meaning the death rate and folks that are over 75 is something between 15 and 17%. So we know how important it is to protect our older folks here in North Carolina when they're in a nursing home or not. But as far as the percentage going down is the total, I think what that is, as a is related to, is the fact that we are seeing more virus spread in our community. And when you have MAWR cases of Cove in 19 and community, that means you're gonna have more hospitalizations. And unfortunately, more folks who may succumb to this virus and so as a as a percentage of the total. It may just be that we're seeing spread in other places. I would encourage folks and on death rates in particular. These are things that can can move around from day to day, week to week, even month to month. And it is often something that you need to look back on after we've. We've gone through a period of time to really understand the trends in our death rates because they're what's called a lagging indicator is like it is lagging, even behind hospitalizations, which we know is that what we also call a lagging indicator? So it's sometimes gives us a picture of maybe what was happening about a month ago, a supposed what is happening right in this moment. But what we are seeing across our state in terms of cases is more viral spread in our communities outside of long term care settings. Yes, that was a big part of what we were seeing in April, Um, and even in early May, But what we're seeing now is more spread in our communities, which unfortunately means more hospitalizations and folks succumbing to the virus who are outside of these settings. Which is why we may be seeing that that death percentage look differently from our long term care settings. I think It's also because we've been working very, very hard, Aziz said. To protect folks in long term care, it is a top priority for us. So I think both of those things in combination, thank you. Our next question is from Victoria will basis with Marseille Latino. Everyone, thank you so much. My question is for director Spray Berry, and it's about the emergency alert system ahead of the hurricane. My understanding is that the national alert originates with the National Weather Service in the FCC and that it is available in Spanish and other languages. So I'm wondering, what is the state plan for delivering Stannis language alert ahead of a hurricane and which counties you've decided? We'll get those types of alerts so alerts air done at the county level. But we have a program called Know Your Zone, which folks at the in our coastal counties. It's a new program, a new initiative, and it is in both English and Spanish language. We also have done all of our documentation relative to hurricane evacuation and hurricane preparedness that's also in English and Spanish. And again, I can tell you that for alerts that's normally done by the counties. And they're the ones that issue the alerts for the residents and visitors in their county, not the state. Thank you. Our next question is from Matt Mercer than her state colonel, Matt Murray. General. Thanks for taking my question yesterday, Lieutenant Governor Danforth during his press conference regarding the lawsuit he's filing about the Emergency Management Act. They said that but Governor Cooper and Dr Cohen have stated they currently have statutory authority relating to the Emergency Management Act two and act these orders. Can you please cite that specific statute as it currently states that it needs concurrent from the Council of State? And my second question is, uh, maybe for Dr Cohen or Director Spray Berry. There was the call made back in March for retired and possibly out of state personnel to be used to handle a surge capacity and then also, the field hospitals that were used are no longer request during operation. Is there a chance those would be brought back if necessary? Or is there still existing capacity within the hospitals to handle any sort of increase from where the current hospitalization numbers are? Well, thanks, Matt. For that question, let me start with. Ah, the authority. Question? You asked. I'm not the lawyer, and I can't cite a statute for you. Ah, off the cuff. But I'm happy to have lawyers follow up with you on that. And I'm sure lawyers were worked through those details. I think the important thing is to know that the governor and I have been thinking about taking early and aggressive action to protect the people of North Carolina. And I think what you've seen since the end of March is our ability to slow the spread of this virus and build up our capabilities to respond and take a slow and measured response in easing restrictions to try to find that balance between protecting public health and reigniting the economy. And I think what you were seeing as cautionary tales from other ah states around us, where they're seeing surges of cases were sitting increases, and that is concerning to me. But we're not seeing surges into your second question about hospital capacity. We have it and that's a good thing and we want to preserve it and we don't want to get anywhere near overwhelming our health care system. So we're taking the measured approach based on science and data to help us understand how we can protect North Carolinians and also find the balance to reigniting our economy. I think they go hand in hand. So as faras authority, I know that our department has what's called an imminent hazard authority if we seal feel that something is an imminent threat to public health, that we are able Teoh to actually act and intervene. So I think all the things that you see us doing to take these actions to protect the people of North Carolina incredibly important. Um and I think it has born out in the data we have seen thus far that are slow and measured. Approach has allowed us to be able to keep the virus level low. But but we're starting to see. Is those increases in trends slight increases in hospitalizations but weak? Our fate is not sealed. We have the power, all of us to keep the virus level low. That's why we went forward with a statewide requirement related to face coverings. We want everyone to work hard together on this, and I'd remind us that one of the important things we want to do is get our kids back to school for in person instruction. But we have to do be able to do that safely on. And so working together to keep that virus level low is is important on your second question related to hospitalizations again. Yes, we do. Control currently have hospital capacity. We work very closely with our hospital systems. Were in touch with them daily to make sure we understand what is happening. Tracking what is happening in the hospitals right along with them. Ah, and making sure we don't ever want to be in a place where we have to go to a field hospital. That is incredibly ah challenging Teoh, I will say, as a physician, t think about caring for folks in the hospital like setting that is not actually a hospital. That would be a dire circumstance that we would be in. And we want to prevent that and we have the ability to do that. We each have the power to stop the spread of this virus. So we're going to focus on that while we also plan to make sure that we have the surge capacity needed. We've been working for many months on Serge. Planning director Spray Berry may want to ADM or on on some of our contingency plans, but they are there, but I want I don't want to have to use them. So thank you, Madam Secretary In First of all, general Statute 1 66 a does guide us when we're going through an emergency. And I have one thing that I do know what I'm not a liar and I cant site every single statute within that law. I know that whenever Madam Secretary and the governor take actions under 1 66 a. If it's appropriate, they get approval from the Council of State. And if not, then they make the decisions that were required to make sure that public safety and public health are insured regarding medical surge. I want to tell you that every day we look at medical surge capability, our capacity that's not once in a while. That's every day, and we just don't look at numbers. We get those numbers and, like madam secretary, said, we're in discussions with the hospitals to make sure that we have a very deep and granular understanding of what those numbers mean. So right Now we do have the capacity. We've also got a great state disaster medical system, which is made up of eight state medical assistance teams. We have Ah, Mobile Disaster Hospital, so we have a lot of capacity out there. They're tried and true. We've used them in many different disasters. We've also basically deploy him to other states whenever they have emergency. So these air folks that know what they're doing, so we feel pretty good about it. But that's not saying that were taken our eye off the ball. We're watching it very carefully very closely to make sure that we understand what our capacity is at all times, and I mean at all times. So thank you very much for those questions, ma'am. Our next question is from Jonathan Alexander at the News and Observer hi dot there's going this Johnson Alexandra with the News and Observer. I have a couple of questions. First contact, uh, about contact rates. What percentage of people are not reporting their context to tracers? You know what county and what counties are doubling times contracting and what the source of viral spread there. And also what do you think is the biggest reason or Carolina has continued to see an increase in cases in hospitalizations. I mean, lack of mass mass gatherings. Well, Jonathan, thanks for that. I'm not sure I caught the end there, but let me start with, um What what do I think is driving? I think you asked what are the source of spread? What do we think is driving? Infection. So I think there are a number of places in which we see Ah, that viral spread. Um, mass gatherings, as you mentioned at the end, is one of those places that are at the highest risk of of spreading infection. There are also some high risk, um, occupations that we know are sources of spread of the infection, some in the meat packing industry, our agricultural sector. So some of our our farming communities manufacturing construction, Those are some of the places and we're seeing workplace spread of of this virus. But it starts in those workplaces, but also then gets into the communities that those folks live in. Um, we are also seeing spread obviously, in our some of our long term care facilities, we post that every ah, on on our website of where those ah, that spread is. Which is why we're focused on protecting folks in our long term care settings and why we're doing additional testing that we're announcing today. As far as contact tracing, this is work that we have been ramping up its something that our local health departments did before Cove in 19. Um, and I think that way we have seen similar to around the country contact tracing is challenging one. Folks have to pick up the phone, um, and have to be willing to work with us. That is one of our key messages is to pick up the phone. If you see folks are calling you from your local health department or it says N C Cove in team, please pick up the phone cause folks are trying to get in touch with you to say you may have been exposed and to talk through Ah, what to do if you have had that exposure. So I think contact tracing is ramping up. Um, and I think there is county to county variation because there are different levels of cases in some of their counties where we're seeing higher number of cases. Certainly we're trying to surge resource is and people to those places, but that we still have work to do to make sure we have enough people to be able to get to all of our new cases each and every day and then make contact. But we know there's a lot of challenges to picking up the phone and wanting people to work with us. So we have to work on that communication and that trust, and we're gonna continue to do that. Thank you. Do you have a follow up from Jonathan Alexandra? Thank you. A a Szukala. Almost half the cases in North Carolina are now with people aged 25 49. Are they the new age group that we need to focus on? And what kind of messaging do you have for people that age who may not? Takeover in 19 Seriously, for Nora, where Mac, um, Or go out to a large gathering? Jonathan. Thanks for bringing that up. Yes, we've been talking about over the last two weeks we have seen that the majority of our new cases are in a younger cohort age 18 to 49. That's where the majority of the cases are. We think that's likely a combination of folks who need to go out to work, um, and ar in exposed settings, but also that, you know, when you're younger, you feel more invincible. Um, and you don't think? Well, if I get it, I get it and it's not gonna harm anyone. But that's actually the wrong way of looking at this. When we see more spread in our our our younger folks, who may not get quite a sick, they are still risks to those that would get more sick. They may have lunch with their their older parent or grandparent. Ah, friend, a church member. They may just be going to the grocery store where someone is. As I was mentioning my opening remarks, they may just go to the grocery store where someone who works in a long term, a long term care setting also goes, and that is an opportunity for virus to spread. Um, and so we're trying to help everyone understand. It's not just about your own personal risk. It's about what is the risk to our community members as a whole. And what we know in North Carolina is, unfortunately, more than half of us 51% or either over the age of 65 or have a chronic disease. That puts us at higher risk of severe illness from Cove in 19. So while you may say, if I get it, I'm not likely to get to sick. The issue is, though, you may give it to others. Um, and that's why we all have to work together here. It's why face coverings air so important. We know that we can protect each other if we do that. But we do need Folks who are younger toe understand not just the risks to themselves, but the risks to their their friends, their family and to the rest of their community. And we'll take our final question today from Tina Terry wsoc TV Charlotte I think you might be on you. He does not there. Let's go to Travis Payne, WRL David Ariel. There was a study out of Norway that's getting some attention today. They looked at people who returned to the gym and people who didn't return to Jim's over two weeks and did not find increased risk for transmission. Among the people that did return to Jim are you familiar with the study? Should it inform our policy on reopening Jim's, particularly in areas better not in particular hot spots in North Carolina? So that question I did not read the study, but I did see an article that covered the study. I think the important part is that two weeks. So I think maybe some promising, ah, information that I want to learn more on. But the about two weeks is not enough time for us to have definitive information about ah how to move forward here. What? What? I what we have seen? Ah, is events where, um, when you have heavy breathing Ah, whether it's singing, shouting or heavy exercising. And you have more particles dispersed from your mouth and your nose. That is how this virus spreads. Um, and that's that's just ah, how the studies continue to move forward and what you're seeing in some of our the other states who are seeing surges in their cases. Like I said, we're seeing increases, which is worrisome, but they're really seeing surges. You're seeing those states walk backwards. Ah, and and close different activities and the things that they close first bars and then gyms. Um, and I think that's because they're looking at some of the same data that we're trying to look at of what are the higher transmission activities that could be contributing to things Now I like I said, I think that there are other things that are spreading virus here in North Carolina right now. Um and we need to focus on those higher risk areas as well. But we continue to see evidence that there is more viral spread with Jim's. I think there are opportunities to for Jim's to be, ah, offering activities outside. I know that that they are classes outside equipment outside. Those are lower risk activities, right? So we want to get into a place where you could be outside and moving around those or what we want to focus on, so we'll still keep our eye on additional data. We know data is evolving on this. We continue to look at new data and we will, and we'll try to incorporate that into our thinking. I'd like to see that study run for a little bit longer than two weeks before we integrate that into how we think about other easing of restrictions And I would say that if we want to do further easing of restrictions in any any context that we really all need to focus on. Ah, wearing a face covering, keeping this viral viral spread low in all of our communities. And remember top priorities also, to get our kids back to school for in person instruction. That's a top priority as well. Thanks for that. Okay, So I don't hear a follow up from Travis. So I'm happy to talk more offline when you Travis on that one, but just want to thank everyone again. I know We'll be back tomorrow with more information on again. Where? Weight and wash. Stay. Well, thank you.