NC officials provide update on virus response
State public health and safety officials provide a May 19, 2020, update on the coronavirus outbreak in North Carolina and the state's response to it.
Cole Fox and Brian Tipton are our American sign language interpreters and working behind the scenes are spent Spanish translators Jackie and Jasmine Motive here, so I'll start with a rundown of the numbers. As of this morning, there were 19,700 laboratory from confirmed cases. 585 people are currently hospitalized, and sadly, there have now been 691 deaths. With Avery County now reporting its first case of Cove in 19 we have lab confirmed cases in all 100 counties of North Carolina. It's another reminder that as we looked forward to moving to Phase two, we have to practice new habits. You're going to hear me say everyday. Practice your three W's where. Weight wash, wear a face covering. Wait six feet apart and wash your hands often, no matter where you are in North Carolina. May is also older Americans month, a time to recognize the important contributions of older adults across our state. Our seniors make countless contributions to our communities, and we recognized the experiences and sacrifices they've made to strengthen and enrich our lives. Our workforce, our families, there are neighbors. We're supporting older adults in North Carolina in many ways during this pandemic, to protect the safety of our seniors were providing home delivered or grab and go meals instead of congregate. Meals are area agencies on aging adult day, and home health programs are continuing to provide services. But do it virtually. We've been partnering with universities to send students to help make wellness checks on our seniors and also have a grant to combat social isolation by providing technology and training on how to use that new equipment. We also have a team dedicated to supporting our long term care facilities as they protect our aging family members and loved ones who require around the clock care at the staff who care for them. We're sending all long term care facilities in the state PPE packets of needed supplies, and we're increasing rates for some Medicaid services to port to support infection prevention and management. We also have provided a tool kit and virtual trainings to support long term care facilities in preparing for and responding to Cove in 19 outbreaks in their facility. Another way we can honor them is to do our part to protect our older loved ones friends and neighbors who are at higher risk for severe illness from Cove in 19 when we wear a face covering and we wait six feet apart, we're showing we care about those around us. People can have Cove in 19 and not have any symptoms if we don't practice the three W's, wear weight and wash, weaken unknowingly expose people to the virus. We all need to do our part to look out for those in our community who are at higher risk. I've seen lots of social media posts about people picking up groceries for a neighbor or calling a friend or relative just to check in. Please continue to take care of yourself and those around you and remember where weight and wash. With that, I'll turn it over to Director Mike's bribery. Thank you, Madam Secretary and good afternoon. I want to start today with an update on severe weather in North Carolina. We continue to monitor the situation in our coastal counties in any lingering impacts from Tropical Storm Arthur. As of this morning, portions of NC 12 and several secondary roads continued to be impacted by standing water. All major interstates and highways are open at this time. We're also monitoring storm systems that will impact our state over the next few days. With heavy rainfall, some of our Western counties could see several inches of rain before Friday. The National Weather Service has parts of western North Carolina under a moderate potential for flash flooding. Today and tonight that risk extends into the Piedmont tomorrow. Heaviest rains are expected tonight and tomorrow morning, and flooding is possible along the Catawba Yadkin. New and Dan Rivers were in close contact with our local partners as they evaluate potential impact to their communities. And we placed two type three Swiftwater rescue teams on alert. Should they be needed in western North Carolina? Everyone, especially those living along rivers and streams, should be alert to the possibility of flooding and landslides and should have a way to receive weather alerts like a NOAA weather radio or a weather app on your smartphone. You can also monitor river and stream levels and get flood alerts from our flood inundation mapping an alert network. We call it Feinman, and the website is Feinman NC dot n c dot gov. That's f i m a n dot N. C. dot gov Today is Day 71 of the state emergency operations centers Cove in 19 response. We're continuing to distribute personal protective gear to long term care of facilities across the state. Nursing homes and other types of care facilities are picking up supplies in Greensburg today, and more facilities will pick up tomorrow and Friday. In Mecklenburg County, more than 3000 licensed long term care homes across the state are receiving a two week supply of protective equipment, and many of them tell us they're very glad to receive it. I want to acknowledge again the partnership and work that went into this project with our fantastic partners at the Office of Emergency Medical Services and other DHHS partners, the North Carolina National Guard and our state and local emergency management partners. From our warehouses, teams delivered supplies to 59 counties and to health care preparedness coalitions yesterday. That's an ongoing mission. Shipments included isolation gowns, gloves, face shields, multiple types of masks, goggles, thermometers and hand sanitizer. We received around 70,000 gowns yesterday at our current request rate of 9700 gowns per day. This is around a seven day supply. We're continuing efforts to procure gowns and other types of P p p e. And we are working with the private sector to manufacture PP he right here in North Carolina, Secretary Cohen mentioned. This is older Americans month. So remember that one of the best ways you can look out for and protect the older folks in your life is by observing the three W's where a cloth face covering. Wait at least six feet apart and wash your hands often. That's where weight and wash follow. Secretary codings guidance. We also want to thank our local partners for all the great work they've been doing to keep their community safe and is always Don't forget to look out for your family. Friends and neighbors Call your loved ones daily guarantee they'll appreciate it with kindness and cooperation. We will all get through this together as one team, one mission and one family. Thank you very much. And now back to Secretary Cohen for questions and answers. Great. Thank you, Director Spray Berry And now open for your questions. Looks like our first question from Stephanie Santa Sozzi wlos TV Asheville. Yes. Hi, Dr Cohen, this is Stephanie San Stassi. Yesterday at 4 p.m. We all received the number of patients presumed to be recovered. My question for you is how are you all classifying? Who is recovered and what criteria must be met for a person to fall into this recovery category. Thanks. Stephanie. Yes. We are updating our recovery numbers once per week. So we updated those yesterday afternoon. Again. The recovery numbers are an estimate. We explain how we get to that estimate on ah, on the website, but let me walk you through it first. For folks who are not hospitalized, we make an assumption from the time in which you your test comes back from the time your sample is collected for 14 days, we assume that you are recovered at the end of those 14 days. If you need to be hospitalized, we make an assumption that its recovery takes 28 days again. These are estimates some people may take longer to recover others, maybe sooner in terms of recovery. But that's the best estimate that we we can make it this point. And we know I think that number now is up at 11,000. In terms of recovery, we know that folks are recovering every day from Cove in 19. We wanted to give folks a sense of that estimate. I will note that CDC has not put out any official guidance on how we should be calculating. Ah, that estimate. So this is our our best attempt at doing that. If the CDC does change the way in which they are estimating ah, then we may need to change our estimates as well. Um, but we're trying to give folks a sense once a week about how our recovery numbers look here in North Carolina as an estimate. Thank you. The next question is, from truly have luck with the Carolina Journal, I thank you so much. I wanted to ask if you are planning to go back to you in person briefings anytime soon. Hi, Julie. Thanks for that question. Um, you know, we are looking at all of the things across the board related Teoh risk. And as we are thinking about easing into face to what that would mean, we want to make sure that we, no matter what we're doing, we're going to continue to tell businesses to be teleworking wherever possible and given the nature that we can create a scenario where we can continue to social distance as well. It continue to be transparent, take questions every single day. I imagine we're gonna continue with distance briefings, at least for the time being. Um, but we'll let you know if that changes again. We we want to create the most safe environments that we can for folks or should say, the lowest risk environments for folks. So if we continue to do that at at at a distance, we will continue to do that. Obviously, we'll continue to watch our numbers and our trends, um, and make adjustments as we go forward. The next question is from Corey Johnson, W E T i e news. Channel 12. But after Cohen I My name is Corey Johnson. My question is, regarding hair salons, um, the hair is a central association is planning to file a lawsuit alleging that they've been prevented from pursuing their vocations during this time. Why have other business has been allowed to reopen and have hair salons been discriminated against in this way? Thanks, Cory, for that question, So, as you know, we initially limited a number of businesses that particularly ones that we felt like were incredibly high risk. As you know, this virus is transmitted when people come into close contact with each other over a prolonged period of time. That means usually within six feet for more than 10 minutes of time. And if you think of when you get your hair done right, there is literally you are right on top of someone when you're doing that, and it is over a period of time. So it's one of the higher risk scenarios, both for patrons and for the employees On. The other tricky part about this virus that we keep talking about is that folks can have Cove in 19 and they don't no, it that is why an important component of as we think about easing restrictions. We want people to wait six feet apart, want them to wash their hands. But we also want them to wear a face covering now in a salon situation. You can't be six feet apart. You just can't deliver those services and be cutting someone's hair of six feet away. That's why these other measures, as we think about easing restrictions, are going to be so important for folks to follow, to be able to wear a face covering to be able to be washing down surfaces, um, and and such as we go forward is going to be really important. We don't want folks to be getting sick and potentially dying from this. Um, so we want to be protecting people's public, protecting the public's health as much as possible here. So we think we've made some decisions in order to do that. As we look at our numbers, we see them remain stable that we believe we can move forward to easing restrictions and salons would be part of those easing of restrictions just at the end of this week s Oh, I'd say, Hang in there. We're gonna keep watching our numbers. Um, right now, we see them largely be stable. They're not perfect, but they're largely stable in terms of ability to respond to this virus. In order for us to see that we have the testing that we want to have, um so those air good, That's good news. And so, as we've said as we move into phase two, which we hope to do at the end of this week, salons would be part of that. But they're going to be additional restrictions on that to keep the visiting of a salon to be as safe as possible. The next question is from Steve Wiseman with the Raleigh News and Observer. They Doctor Colon Steve watching on the news and observer I want to ask you about the is vehicle just collecting aggregate contact tracing data from around the state. Determined patterns, hot spots, another useful information, and we'll be sharing that information, Steve, Thanks for that s O. As you know, we already are required to collect some information about where there might be hot spot. We are required to have labs report us positive cases from wherever that lab is. So that's how we get our positive lab reports. In addition, there are certain types of community certain types of sectors that are required to report to us whether or not they are seeing an outbreak. Some of those, um, sectors are, for example, are congregate living settings. Um, folks like nursing homes or congregate living shelters of various types. They are required to report that they report that to their local health department, who in turn, then reports that to the state. We aggregate that information and then we post that on our website. There are a few other industries that also are required to report, like a child care or or a school setting, but they're there in isolated number of those sectors that are required to report to us when they see those outbreaks. Um, so we are posting already the congregate living settings, and what we are able to dio is show down to a zip code level. Where are the positive cases coming when the lab reports to us? So we feel like that's a lot of information that they were able to give folks in terms of pinpointing around the state. Where do we see highest number of cases? So we're able to see at the ZIP code level. Um, the positive lab reports that come in, we're able to see also then Teoh cluster those at certain types of facilities, like I said, like congregate living facilities that were required to report to us. Thank you. Next question is from Michael Phil era with w f A. I had a doctor Cohen. This is Michael Fuller with w F A E question for you about hospitalization numbers. Uh, that 5 85 is the highest level since April 15th at least. What does this mean as a trend for starting phase two this week? Michael, great question about hospitalizations. As you know, hospitalizations. One of four trends that we look at as well as 2 to 3 capacities that we also Ah, look at. Yes, you are right. We saw hospitalizations tick up between yesterday. Today. Still, you know, I will say with hospitalizations because we do have a lot of hospital hospital capacity. You know, we're trying to look at that in the context of is our health system able to handle the number of cases? And the answer is overwhelmingly, yes. So in addition to hospitalizations, we do give a sensible how many other empty beds air there. And we know we have capacity in our hospitals. So, yes, we are watching that very closely. I want to see what tomorrow the rest of the week brings us in terms of that number when I But when I look overall, we've largely been stable. We've been in the 500 is generally with that number. We do have a slight dip over the weekend. We think that's more reporting issue, um, than than anything else. But so we've largely been in the 500. So yet we might be at the higher end of the five hundreds today not sure what tomorrow will bring. But I think the overall message is stability there and our system able to have the capacity to handle additional infections should they come our way. And again, hospitalization is one of four trends we look at. No one of these ah trends alone can really give us a picture. I'd also say that hospitalizations tends to be a lagging indicator. So very much to me says, Is this telling me something about something that happened last week that we need to be aware of? So again, each of the indicators has its own limitations, has its own way of of having the data come to us, which isn't always perfect. That's why we need to look at the full picture. But we are very much watching that that ah, slight uptick in hospitalizations. But I would characterize that still overall stable, given the high amount of capacity that we do have in our hospital systems at this point. Thank you. Next question is from Gary Robertson with the Associated Press. Hi, Gary Robertson with AP Dr. Colin Way had talked a little bit about contract tracing, and last week I guess there was some question about South Carolina and them announcing that they were gonna have well over 1000 contract tracing, um, workers. And I know that in recent weeks we said that we had hoped to double the number in our state. Uh, that that seems to be smaller compared to what South Carolina is doing. Um, I missing something on the numbers Or is it the quality of contract tracing that leads you to believe that you're still very confident and in our numbers, or it are, uh, in the work that's being done in that area? Gary, Thanks to a question, Aziz, you know, we think that contact tracing in coordination with the increased testing is one of our foundational ways in which we're going to be able to keep viral spread low. And the reason for that is when someone tests positive, we want a contact tracer to reach out to them, find out who their contacts were, make sure those contacts who got exposed? Do you get testing? And then you go from there. Maybe their contacts got got exposed if there was a positive test and go from there, and it allows you to more quickly isolate people who might have cove in 19. Tell them to stay home until they are are recovered. Um and so that's why this is so important. Now, we're lucky in North Carolina, we've had have our local health departments have been doing contact tracing since the beginning of this Ah, pandemic. And frankly, for men for decades that this is what they dio now the scale at which they need to do their job is quite different as we think about going forward and needing to keep the virus level low. Um, so we already had about 250 people already deployed, and we are able to, um, what we have done is also ask our local health department. Are there other employees that you already have that could also get retrained and get redeployed, should we need it? So, in addition to the 250 we're working right now to even bring up mawr of them. So we don't have to hire more new. This is just redeploying currently. Um, but current folks at the local health departments I don't have a number yet on how many were are planning to train, but I know it's a sizeable number, and then we want to also go and hire the additional contact tracing folks to be able to deploy the important part for us about contact tracing is is also having folks from the communities and also who speak the language that folks are going to need to do. So we've definitely put an emphasis on our new hires, um, to make sure we have both English and Spanish so that we can be doing appropriate contact tracings in in all of the communities here in North Carolina so that we do want to be focused on on that and are hiring has been specifically focused on making sure we're having folks come from the communities in which they're going to be calling right, because there is a trust issue here, and we want folks to know these air trusted public health officials that will be calling and asking folks questions. So we're really working hard to make sure that we're implementing a system that that folks can comply with because what we're seeing from other states is they've hired a number of contact tracers. But what happens is folks don't they and they do it by phone. We see that folks don't answer the phone. Massachusetts was one of the states that was first sort of first out of the gate and doing a lot of contact tracing on were actually trying to learn lessons from that, Um, which they have been very kind to share things around the fact that that if you just do phone it is often you will miss someone on the phone or they just don't pick up the phone. So we already are troubleshooting strategy is to make sure that we can make the contact with folks on the first try a supposed to having to call back, again and again and again that reduces your workload a swell. So we are trying to understand how many contact tracers do we think we're going to need in order to really be able to respond, um, to the work here. So I would say this is a work in progress. I don't have all the answers yet we're trying to learn from other states. Learn from our own internal resource is redeploy what we can because we know we have to make all of our recent resources go further, Um, and then hire more as we go. So I don't have a new number to share. I do feel like we're making good progress. I do appreciate all the work the local health departments have done around contact tracing. And I'm appreciative of our new partners, really focusing on hiring folks who come from communities in that they're going to serve as well as you know, from a cultural perspective, but also a language perspective as well. Thanks for that question, Gary. The next question is from Vanessa Rush, Christa B C and D TV. Charlotte. Hi there. This is Vanessa Ribfest with wcnc. Charlotte, Thank you for taking my question. Dr. Cohen, I wanted to ask you about the developments out of Lincoln County. Yesterday. We had learned that a restaurant knowingly violating the governor's orders decided to open its doors for dining service. And we were there last night as Diner came in, sat down and had their meals. Do you have a response to this development. Vanessa, Thanks. The question, as you know, is we thought about easing restrictions here. We're trying to be really data driven in our decisions. First we looked at are trends and said, You know, we were stable. We could go forward When we thought about some of those first activities that we could do, we knew that the virus gets transmitted more when people are indoors and they're sitting down for longer periods of time in close proximity. So some of the higher risk activities or anything you could imagine that is indoors and sitting and potentially close, close by to one another. Restaurants, salons, as we talked about earlier, those kinds of activities that are higher risk of transmitting the virus as they think about other kinds of activities that we allowed in Phase one. There are really two kinds. One was either be outside right. Being outside allows you to social distance more. There's better air circulation. Your, um, you can be be apart when you're indoors. We wanted to allow indoor activities that allowed you to walk around, so if you were in a retail setting, you were a clothes store Ah, Floresta, Jeweler, you can continue to walk around. You're not in any one spot for more than a few minutes as you look for an item. So we tried to focus on those kinds of lower risk kinds of scenarios first, so restaurant as you can see what is a high risk scenario. Plus, we know when you are eating, it's really hard to eat with face covering on. So we know folks are taking off their face coverings to eat and drink. Understandably so again, higher risk. Um, situation that again. We wanted to make sure we had a little bit longer period of time to see stability and are in our numbers. Um, and that we have are contemplating moving forward with opening restaurants. Just a Theo end of this week. So we asked folks, toe, hang in. They're with us. As we look at our numbers, make sure we're stable. Um, we're not going to be perfect, right? We're trying to have this. This balance here of recognizing stability does not mean perfection, but was stable enough to move on to phase two. So the folks in Lincoln you know, I appreciate that that the local community. Um, and folks there, you know, have called out. You know that that really isn't in line with the governor's request from the executive order. That is not currently, at this moment, the best interest of public health. You know, we want folks to be making good decisions to protect not just themselves, but their community, right, because the heart I know this is so hard to understand, because this is even new for the scientists in the public health experts, the fact that you could transmit this virus and not even know about it is a really hard and challenging part of Cove in 19. And that's what we're trying to make sure that we are are doing once folks get sick, I think many I've gotten the message. They know if you are sick, stay home, stay isolated. It's that period when you don't either. No, you're going to get sick yet. Or maybe you are going to get sick at all because some people don't get sick at all. From Cove in 19 it's a It's a crazy part about this virus, where some can get so severely ill there on a ventilator, and it could succumb to the illness and others don't have any symptoms. That's why we're asking everyone to do their part. And this is what's really hard about this because everyone has to do it together. But that's OK. I know that North Carolina, we can do this. It is hard. It will be a new way of move moving through the world. Um, it won't be as comfortable to be six feet apart from our friends and our loved ones or toe wear these face coverings. But we can go back to things like restaurants and salons when we do that kind of work to support each other, and that's what we're asking folks to do. Please abide by the governor's ruling. And when you are around people do your do your three W's. We can get through this together. So please, please hang in there with us. Our final question will be from Rebecca Martinez with double Union Radio 40. Hello, Rebecca Martinez from WDUN. We saw that the most virulent. A Council of Churches has sent a letter to congressional delegation from the Carolina asking for, um, intercession on behalf of the North Carolina resident and ice detention. I'm just wondering if Stairs any guidance being dependent? You, um, state prisons or even enforcement regarding immigration folks who have bearing immigration status is to tread a per event, several more ability to probe in 19. Rebecca, you were a little bit in and out there, but what I would say about Cove in 19 and how we're thinking about it, it goes back to how is talking about the last question. We're in this together as a community. Those of us who are here in North Carolina, we need to be protecting it each other. Um, and this virus does like it doesn't respect county borders or even state borders or party lines. Nothing, Right? Um, they this this virus can tack us all. And that's why we need to be in this together, right to protect us all. And that means getting access to care for all getting testing available for all, um, and to do it in a way that protects our our entire state. So there's a lot of collective action that we need to do here. Ah, in order to fight the virus on, I'd say that's across the board where we're thinking about correctional facilities. And what do we need to do to both protect those who are incarcerated as well as the staff? We're doing those things. How do we think about our skilled nursing facility? How do we think about our migrant farm workers as well? So who live and congregate settings, which we know are higher risk. I think whether we're looking at any of those populations or anywhere in North Carolina, I think the sentiment is the same about having, um, us do these collective actions to protect each other. And then when we do that and we can get folks testing and we do, these collective actions like that protects us all. Every community is protected. When all of us can get access to testing, get access to care, can get, can do the three W's can do all of these things collectively. Um, and I know that that is that is the path that will allow us to get back to those things that we love and allow us to keep moving forward in the phases of of that that are coming forward here. So, Rebecca, thanks for that. That question and I Sorry, I missed a piece of it so well, happy to follow up after, if there was another nuance there that I missed. And with that Okay, I think you've heard for him from both directors labor and I a lot about the three W's. We'll be back later this week with more on our trends and progress towards phase two. All right, thanks so much.