Supply shortages slowing NC coronavirus testing efforts
State public health and safety officials provide a July 2, 2020, update on the coronavirus outbreak in North Carolina and the state's response to it.
Monica McGee and Karen Magoon are American sign language interpreters, and working behind the scenes are are Spanish translators Jackie and Jasmine. Motive. Here I'll start with rundown of the numbers. As of this morning, there are 68,142 laboratory confirmed cases, 912 people currently hospitalized. And sadly, there's been 1391 deaths. Today is day to day. Ah, so stay tuned for some graphs across the country. We continue to see dangerous spikes in viral transmission. Many states are now moving backwards. They're closing businesses again and enacting more restrictions. Some have openly recognized that they moved too fast. I'm grateful to Governor Cooper for his strong leadership to follow the science and use that dimmer switch approach to responsibly ease measures. Slowly, as you'll see in the data, were walk through where we are not in dire straits, like some around us. We have reason to be concerned, though yesterday we reported another record setting day of New Cove in 19 cases. All right, let's get started and dive into some data as a reminder. We use a combination of metrics that are based on public health data and White House guidance are four metrics we've gone over since April include cove it like syndrome, A cases lab lab confirmed cases, positive tests as a percentage of total test and hospitalizations. Again, we must look at these indicators as a whole package, not any one metric in isolation because they each tell a unique piece of the story, and each of them have limitations. OK, moving on to our first graph. This looks at people who come into the emergency department with cove it like symptoms. This is our earliest detection mechanism. It's taking a looking at the yellow line here. You can see that this line is increasing. This metric is not impacted by testing rates or other factors. It's an early warning indicator. We need to pay attention what this data is telling us, and that yellow line going up is concerning. All right, next metric, we look at laboratory confirmed test. I draw your attention again to the yellow line, the seven day rolling average, and we continue to see an increase in new laboratory confirmed cases of Cove in 19. As I mentioned yesterday, we reported the highest number of positive cases in a day and I'd like to be seeing this metric level off, but unfortunately, it continues to trend upward on this next graft. We're gonna We're looking at the exact same data of lab confirmed cases that we just saw, but now we're zooming in again for a closer look at the more recent changes. This graph shows data since May 15th and allows you to see our most recent trends in just a little more detail. Again, looking at the Yellow Line or seven day rolling average, this metric is trending up and you can see it's accelerating and the slope of the line has become steeper over the last week. This is concerning not only of the number of cases growing, they're growing more quickly, and this means we're not only seeing more cases, but we're seeing more rapid viral spread now onto the percentage of tests that are positive. We want to look at this graph in the context of the other two graphs we just examined, and so, looking at the yellow line, you can see that the percentage of total tests are returning positive has been in the 8 to 10 range, and while it is remained stable. We'd like to see this be closer to 5% so it remains elevated or next graph. Here is the trend of day over day hospitalizations. The Yellow Line shows that North Carolina's trajectory of hospitalization is starting toe level. In the last week. Our hospitalization still have capacity to meet increased demand If more people become seriously ill and that is a good thing, however, this indicator is a lagging indicator, meaning it takes longer to see the impact of viral spread on hospitalizations than it does on those other metrics we were just looking at. With our increase in emergency department visits that we see in our surveillance metrics, we will continue to watch our hospitalization trend closely. Okay, so here's where we are today. Our surveillance data continues to increase. That gets a Red X. North Carolina's directory trajectory of lab confirmed cases continues to increase. It also gets a red X. North Carolina's trajectory in percent of tests returning positive remains steady at about 9% But this value continues to be high. It gets a yellow line, and, as we said, we'd like to see this number cut in half to about 5%. North Carolina's trajectory of hospitalizations is also leveling, but this trend gets a yellow line. We also track are critical capabilities, our ability to respond to this pandemic. And here we're seeing mostly positive trends, and that's a very good sign. Testing has an upward our arrow. We are averaging more than 20,000 tests a day now for the past week, and we have more than 530 testing sites listed on our website, plus additional pop up testing sites. However, around testing commercial and hospital labs across the country, and labs here in North Carolina are again running into shortages of important chemicals called free agents that are needed to process those lab tests. As a result, labs air taking longer to provide results. Federal help in action is needed to address the supply issues. Right now, we'd also like to see more federal testing sites here in the state of North Carolina on contact tracing. We continue to hire contact tracers to bolster our efforts in our local health department and meet those ongoing needs. These cove in 19 community team members reflect the diversity of the communities they serve, and almost half that have been hired, Our blood bilingual. Our personal protective equipment supplies are stable, and we have enough critical supplies on hand to fill requests for the next three months. So in all this isn't where I'd hoped we'd be for July 4th weekend. And unfortunately, we don't get ah holiday from Cove in 19. We can celebrate, but we have to do so responsibly with Cove in 19 that starts with practicing the three W's. You heard them often wearing a face, covering over your nose and mouth, waiting six feet apart, washing your hands often this July 4th, the best way that we can honor our country is by honoring each other where a face covering to protect your loved ones and neighbors, where a face covering to you re ignite our economy and support businesses where a face covering so our Children can get back to school where they grow, learn and thrive. And with that I'm gonna turn it over to director spray braid for for your marks. Thank you, Madam Secretary. Good afternoon. As we enter the long holiday weekend, there is no tropical weather in the Atlantic to be concerned about at this time So that's some good news. You heard Dr Cohen talking about our mission, his teammates for the 244 celebration of the birth of our nation. We must all do our part by wearing a face covering, waiting at least six feet apart and washing our hands frequently. It'll be easy to be tempted to gather and celebrate this most important holiday and throw caution to the wind. Let's not do that. We all need to remember that if we don't follow the three W's, we run a great risk of more virus spread. This is our chance to pull together, moving on to some weather. High temperatures in the nineties air gonna be with us for this weekend and they're gonna be a concern. If you're gonna be enjoying the outdoors, please stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water. Use sunscreen and aware of heat exhaustion. If you start to feel weak or overheated, go indoors where it's cool and seek medical attention if necessary. Today is day 115 of the State Emergency Operation Centers Cove in 19 response. We want to spend send a special thanks to our law enforcement partners today We know that many of them will be working over this holiday, and we appreciate your selfless service. Yesterday we completed our three day push of personal protective equipment to school districts and charter schools all across the state. We want to thank the schools and our partners at the departments of Health and Human Services, public Instruction and the North Carolina National Guard who worked so hard to make it a success. School nurses and other school health professionals now have a two months supply of PPE and thermometers to get them started on the new school year, help them keep their students safe and well. The state emergency Response team is still filling daily requests for personal protective equipment from hospitals, long term care facilities, first responders and others. Just yesterday, we delivered PPE to 48 counties and one healthcare prepared in his coalition. We also received 56 request for PPE yesterday. So far, the states committed more than $280 million.2 pp purchases for the Cove in 19 pandemic. As we begin, July were one month into the hurricane season, with five more to go, and it's time to make sure your family is ready, the state emergency Response team and your local counties air preparing, and you need to be personally prepared. Visit ready and see dot order to update your emergency kit and family emergency plan. And be sure you add items to your kids to stay healthy during the cove in 19 pandemic like club face coverings, hand sanitizers and cleaning wipes. This year we want residents in hurricane and flood prone areas to make an evacuation plan to stay with family or friends in a safe place inland or in a hotel. Staying in a shelter will not be a good option during the Cove in 19 Pandemic. We know it will be extremely difficult to maintain social distancing and to provide services in the pandemic environment. Staying with family, friends or the hotel will reduce the chances of you being exposed to or transmitting. The cove in 19 virus shelters will be available for those with no other options, but they should be an option of last resort. Lastly, remember to observe the three W's, especially on this Fourth of July weekend, where a cloth face covering wait at least six feet apart and wash your hands. Often that's where weight and wash this is, how we slow the spread of the virus, working collectively together, we do have the power and is always. Don't forget to look out for your family, friends and neighbors and to call your loved ones daily, especially during this holiday. Guaranteed. They'll appreciate it with kindness and cooperation will all get through this together as one team, one mission and one family. And now I'm gonna turn it back over to Madame secretary for questions and answers. Thank you very much, man. Great. Thank you, Director. And now we will take your questions. We'll take our first questions a day from Helen Chickering, Blue Ridge Public Radio. Thank you for taking my call. My question is about the role of travel in new cases. I think yesterday's, um, briefing you were asked about of the role of people coming from an out of state or maybe out of county and western North Carolina, and you mentioned it look like we're seeing. Most cases are linked to community spread. We're seeing a different picture in some of the counties across western North Carolina. Specifically, Polk County has just released that 61% of their newly positive cases are from people visiting on. I just wanted to get your thoughts about the role of travel, um, in the rise in new cases, especially as we head into the weekend. Thank you, Helen. Thanks for bringing up that topic. And, yes, why was giving trend for overall state? But we know that different parts of our state are seeing different reasons for viral spread, and it goes back to look when we move around mawr, this virus moves with us. And so we have to be vigilant at doing the things that we know prevent viral spread. It's the wearing of face coverings, waiting succeeded, part washing hands. So, yes, travel is a component of this. But what we're seeing over the majority of the state that it is local transmission. It is exposure at job sites than exposure at home when someone might get exposed at at a job site where they're working and then they bring it home and unfortunately also expose their family members. Ah, and friends and neighbors. So that is largely what we're seeing. But of course, there are other contributing factors. What we're seeing in the western part of our state is actually where we see the lowest level of new cases, so that that's a good sign for are the most western part of our state. But that is where they also get a lot of influx of folks coming into our state. So it doesn't surprise me to hear that Polk County is hearing seeing a number of their cases come from outside of the state again. I think this is why we have to go back to those tried and true things that we know work to slow the spread of this virus around wearing the face coverings, washing your hands, waiting six feet apart. Um, we need folks here in North Carolina to do that, but we need to know we need to make sure that those who are visiting our state understand the the restrictions and requirements that we have in place and make sure that they're following those as well. Thank you for that question. The next question is from Michael Celera with w f A at a secretary Michael Klare with W a question for you. We've heard the Memorial Day was an inflection point for viral spread looking a bump in our trends. Are you expecting after this holiday weekend? And specifically, what would you say to young people who might be going out given the higher cases in that age bracket? Michael. Thanks. Yes, Memorial Day was an inflection point. But remember, wasn't just a holiday weekend. It was also the start of our reopening or are easing of restrictions into Phase two was the first time we moved away from from the The stay at home order was at that same time. So those two things interacted. Difference here is that we have stayed in phase two. We have stayed in place to try to keep the level of virus level spread low, and now we have mandated and required that all folks to be wearing face coverings in public settings. So I think we have to things that are working in our favor we're not having. We're not seeing a new easing of restrictions as we also go into a holiday weekend and we have new requirements around face coverings. I think those two things will be protective, but it means we actually all have to work together. I think the restrictions and the rules in place are the things that are necessary to keep the virus of a low. We all just have to do it together. Um, and yes, particularly those that are younger who may say like I can I can beat that cove it thing. Well, you may be able to beat it, but maybe your older neighbor, that friend down the street, someone at your church, someone who you may not even know, But at a grocery store, maybe they have chronic conditions are older. They work in a long term care setting. We all need to make sure that we are taking care of each other as we go into this July 4th. As I mentioned, I think. Ah, great way to honor our country. Um, and honor the United States is to work together a state here and make sure that we keep the virus level low. Thanks. Next question is from Julie. Have luck with the Carolina Journal. I thank you so much. I wanted to ask if you are really Have you ever visited the idea of a regional reopening instead of a statewide reopening? Julie, Thanks for that question. So we continue to look at our data. And yes, I think regional. Um, easing of restrictions is something that we will continue to consider. You know, I think the geography of North Carolina doesn't lend itself as well as some other states where they have some easier distinctions between where their urban centers are, or maybe some of their other hot spots. If you go to our dashboard and you look at our, um, our our state map and where our cases are and you look at that per capita, you'll see it's in all different parts of our state. There is really no region here. Probably Like I said, the best is happening out in west part of our state. But we still have counties like Burke County who is having, um, high rates of cases out west. So I think all parts of our state need to be concerned here. But yes, we want to keep those options on the table, continue to look at our trends. We've said this before, but we know that viruses don't respect borders. They don't respect county border is not even regional or state border. So we have to work hard. Ah, here to make sure that we can keep the virus level low. Um, we want to be able to set a floor of the things that we think we need to do for our state to keep the virus of a low. And then there may be individual municipalities or counties that want to go further based on what they're seeing. And that's always something we support because we want them to tailor to what they're seeing in their communities. But we want to set that foundation that floor for the whole state because the virus does move around. Um, so much. And so we're gonna continue to do that. But I do do think that we continue tohave thoughts about regional ah changes as we move forward here. But like I said, as we look at our map and you can look right along with us, you look at that. We're really seeing cases and all part of our state right now. Thanks. Next question is from Linda on Earth and use an observer. Hi. Thank you very much for taking my question. This is Lynn Bonner from the News and Observer. If the state is going to seem impact from face coverings, how long. With that taken, how big will the change be? What we should be looking for? Lin. Thanks for that question. We as we look at the scientific evidence on the impact of face coverings and other states, I think it can have a very outsized impact. I don't think that that is something we will see immediately. It usually does take 2 to 3 weeks for us to see new changes in our numbers, either from using restrictions and then we see numbers potentially go up is what we saw in North Carolina. I think what we take the action to do the requirement on face coverings. It may take 2 to 3 weeks before we see a dent in on our numbers going the other way. So I think we still have some time here. But what? What's important about the face coverings is consistency. It's doing it all the time, all together every day, and we can't let up. And so, um, I think that is that. It's hard. I know it's uncomfortable, it's inconvenient. But that's what the studies show is that we really all have to work together on the face coverings. That's why we went to a statewide requirement for the face coverings. But we all have to work together and have do that consistently again. We spent a lot of time yesterday with the governor talking about schools and the important of get importance of getting our kids back in school. So I want to make sure that we're all doing our part to keep that virus level low, Um, and and focus on getting our kids back into the classroom. Thanks. The next question is from Lana Harris with WCNC TV Charlotte. All right, Thanks for the question. I wanna hear 17 c. So we have measures in place, like math requirement and the still in phase two. Are you nervous that people are gonna be going out of different states over the holiday weekend and bring back whatever they may into our data? How does that support what we're doing here? If people go out on different dates and now Lana, thanks for that question and I know you'll and are close to South Carolina. We know that things in South Carolina there are a lot of cases there. What I would say for anyone who's thinking about July 4th, whether that's here in North Carolina, and particularly if you're going to areas where the where there's more virus spread. If you're going to South Carolina, Florida, Georgia, over to Texas. Arizona is particularly, ah, hard hit right now. What I would say is is it's still the same tried and true activities that you want to take. Take into account. You want to be wearing your face covering all the time you want to be practising social distancing and washing your hands. You have to be vigilant, um, and really monitor your symptoms when you return. If you're returning from a high prevalence area, really pay attention. You should be wearing your face covering right, so in case you have it, you won't spread it to other people. We don't have a lot of tools to fight Cove in 19. I wish we did, but it's the same thing. So whether you're traveling, whether you're not, it's really goes back to the same tools here. What we want to do in North Carolina is keep that virus level low. We don't want to be the cautionary tale that we see in some of, ah, the other states that are heating up. I know that we can can do that if we all work together. Thanks. The next question is from pictured Praver, The Winston Salem Journal. Yes, this is Richard Craver. Fun with seven journal. Given that there's been a concerned about the reopening fitness centers. Also, there was a bill that was cleared the Legislature last week that took out the Council of State concurrence requirements that passed with bipartisan support. And I want to see if you all have a sense for whether that bill will be able to be signed by the governor and what your recommendations are at this point. Thanks, Richard. Appreciate that. I know that folks are eager to continue to make progress on easing restrictions. I'm eager to do that. I know the governor is eager to do that, but we need to make sure that we keep the virus level low. What we've seen over the course of June has been concerning here. We've seen increasing case rates. I went through the data just before we've seen increasing number of new cases. Day over day. Yesterday was our highest day of new cases. Um, we were seeing an increase in hospitalizations. It was good to see that that was starting toe level. And we have hospital capacity. So we are not dire. Like some of the other states are on fire like we're seeing in other states. We want to keep it that way. And so what I would say is we need to work together to keep that virus level low, and then we can continue to make progress and easing restrictions. I think what we've seen is that that this slow and steady this measured approach to easing restrictions is something that has kept our state from being on the the worst end of the virus spread that we're seeing right now. So you're seeing states like Texas, Arizona, even California not only not move forward, they're closing things. And what are they closing their closing bars? They're closing gyms. They're closing indoor dining at restaurants. I don't wanna have to go backwards. Um, I want to make sure that we can continue to make progress and continue to ease restrictions, but we need to see our trends stabilize in order to do that. So we're just gonna have to keep watching our numbers and make decisions as we go here as we go into July 4th weekend again. That's why we're making such a big emphasis on taking care over this weekend. We don't want Teoh see these trends. Ah, really spike or get out of control because that won't let us be able to move forward. And we'd have to move backwards and no one wants that. So I think we need to learn from these other states that are going backwards that are closing the exact activities that we want to open their closing. Those we don't want to be in that that scenario. We want to keep making progress, so we'll focus on the three W's and the things that we can do to try to keep viral spread low. Thanks. You have a follow up from picture Craver Journal? Yes, the Secretary I meant to ask you also have they all been tracing these fitness centers Y m c. A jams that have been doing outdoor activity? You seem kind of concerns were outbreaks there. Thanks, Richard. So I think that was Are we following that? Some of the gyms are doing outdoor ah, fitness classes and other things outdoors. And yes, they are. They're allowed to do that. We encourage folks to get exercise. We know that's really important, and we know that when folks are doing activities outdoors, the risk of virus transmission is lower. It's not zero, but it's lower. Um, so you are both outside with better air flow outside with UV light from sunlight. Both of those things are positive. We also know that fitness classes air making sure t maintain space. They're marking things on the floor. I think all that is really positive, and I'm really appreciative for those that are, ah, heating the guidelines and the requirements that we've put forward. So we haven't heard of of any challenges or any spread of virus in those settings where folks, folks are really taking, Ah, these precautions very seriously. And we want to keep it's hopefully seeing that and making sure that they're doing a good job sticking to those good guidelines. Thanks. No, Our next question is from Brian Anderson with the Associated Press. Hi, Dr Cohen during Anderson, who with the AP Thank you so much for your time accessibility here. We always really appreciate having you, Uh, I had two questions. I'll go one and then a follow up. But my first washing was just sort of on on what you said earlier about personal protective equipment supplies being stable. And you said that the state has enough critical supplies on him for the next three months. I was just hoping you could elaborate on that. Is there any PP The state doesn't have that it needs. And what specific supply their stable Thanks or thanks, Brian. Yes. On personal protective equipment, we knew this was an issue and supply chains were challenging before, um, we we now have the supplies we need to meet the demand. So we are supplying our local counties, sometimes our health care partners and others for their needs. And we are seeing those supply chains improve. The kinds of things that we still had issues around were gowns. But that's really improved lately. And then when we look at what's called N 95 masks loaders for our health care providers, there are different sizes, those kinds of mass, and need to be fit for folks. We were seeing a shortage of small sizes of and 95. So we've really focused our purchasing on making sure we get enough small ending in 95 Mass. So that's all been moving in a positive direction. So again, yes, we feel good about about where we are, but understand that that's were able to meet the current demand. If we were to see spikes and surges again, that's going to draw down. Our resource is that we've built up again. We also as directors bravery keeps mentioning, are in hurricane season. We need to be planning for that as well. So not only are we trying to respond to current needs, we're tryingto also build up our supplies to be able to respond as we go forward. The supply that I want to bring to your attention, Brian, that we are concerned about some of our testing supplies and these are the supplies needed at the laboratories to process the tests. The re agents we have. We have swabs, but we need those chemicals and what is happening at our health systems. In particular, they could be running more tests if they had more re agents, but they're needing toe to actually run less test per day to sort of save their re agents as they go forward and what's happening if they even run out, then they're using are bigger commercial labs which further delays everyone getting test results back, and that's a real problem. So when we were before, we were seeing turnaround times in 24 hours, 48 hours. Now we're seeing 5 to 6 days. Sometimes before people are getting their results back. That's not good. Um, we need to really close that gap. And that's one thing that North Carolina, we can't solve that problem from the state level. We need federal assistance. We need assistance from the supply that supply chain, um, on this. So we are raising those concerns today. So while PPE the protective equipment we feel better about it, is the laboratory supplies that remains concerned anything you have a follow up from Brian Anderson. It 80. Thank you for that. That was very helpful. Uh, Governor Cooper said yesterday that you recently met with Bill Roper. The UNC system discussed college re opening plan. I was hoping you could tell us a little bit more about when that took place. What was said and went, If it all Republican, expect guidance from your department for college reopening plan. Brian Thanks for that. Dr. Roper is uncredible resource to our state. Not only is he the interim chancellor, um, for UNC, but as we all know, he also is the former head of the CDC. Eso We are lucky to have his guidance as we have been moving through this pandemic. And so he and I, um, touch base. Often he's part of our car Cove in 19 task force for the state. Um and so I know he and has a very large team thinking about how do they go about reopening and our conversations air Really about that? What are the things that that folks, that they could be doing right now in terms of planning, I think most of our conversations air talk about options and to make sure that they have options that ranged similar to our K 12 planning options. An option for coming back in person but still having a face covering requirement, doing social distancing in washing hands, hygiene, the the infection control, the washing. Ah, and the cleaning of surfaces and such. So there's that. Then we've also talked about what is a full virtual option look like, and making sure that's something that they have ready in terms of planning. And then there's a middle option of do. How do they bring folks back to campus and still do some hybrid of in person and online learning? So it's very similar kinds of conversations that we're having with K 12 and and similarly, they need to be working hard to get those plans in place. And these are These are hard decisions on how to bring everyone back safely, not only to protect their students but to protect their faculty. So we were sort of working through that together, and we keep in close touch on, and I've appreciated his counsel. And since you know, he's had federal leadership roles in public health for decades, so we continued, Teoh talked often. Thank you. We'll take our final question today from Daniel Walton at the Mountain Express. Hello, Dr Common. I understand that the DHS has been engaging with researchers across the state who are conducting studies about antibody prevalence scented 19. I'm hoping you could summarize what we've learned so far about from that engaged. Thanks. Daniel. Yes, there are there many research opportunities going on around the state. Some of them are in the epidemiology and antibody range. Some of them are related. Teoh Therapeutic Trials. What kinds of new medicines can we think about? Others are vaccine related, So it's great, I think, North Carolina. There's a lot of innovation, a lot of study and research. I want to thank our academic partners across the state that have really stepped up and put a lot of intellectual heft in academic heft behind that. So, um, opportunity to thank them for that is part of early results that that we have seen from some of the antibody studies with what those kinds of studies are are asking on looking at is what is the actual prevalence of the virus here in North Carolina. When I talk about the lab confirmed cases and we went through the graphs those air only people who are actively getting testing, we know from other prevalence studies around the country that laboratory confirmed cases are really only picking up a fraction of what is likely the cove, it positive patients or people here in North Carolina. So those antibody studies are helping us get a picture of how many people are actually ah have been exposed to Kobe, 19 have had it in the past, and do they have now antibodies to Cove in 19? What we're seeing is while we're picking up, you know, the number of cases we're seeing a prevalence rate in a few of those early studies that range anywhere from 5 to 6% to up to 10% in the Wake Forest Baptist study was 10%. In some other studies, I've seen closer to 5 to 6%. Again, these are all very preliminary. Ah, results here. But what it's telling us is that there is virus here. And there's a lot of folks who have been exposed to Cove in 19 Ah, here in North Carolina. And that shows you that there is a lot of spread of this virus when people don't even know that they are sick and it goes back to these fundamentals. And I'm sorry t keep going back there. But it's so important, Ah, that we can spread this virus when we don't have it. Which is why, um, our face coverings are so important. Why we continue to make sure that that requirement is understood that we are wearing face coverings in all public settings when we can't be socially distant and washing hands and waiting six feet apart. So the research starting to tell us that that there is more virus spread than our lab confirmed cases tell us which we we knew. I'm. It's similar to the prevalence studies that we're seeing that the CDC has put out and others. But remember these these research studies have to be done over time or what's called Longitudinal E. And so we will see at different moments in time what virus spread looks like here in North Carolina. So again, thank our research community, which is excellent here in North Carolina for all that they're doing on both and a body and prevalence studies. But again, on therapeutics on vaccines, it's so important that we as a state or contributing Teoh, fight this Ah, fight this virus at every turn. All right with that again happy Fourth of July weekend. Enjoy the celebration and in honoring our country, follow your three W's and we'll be back with you next week with more information. Thank you. Stay well