Cohen: NC is 'on shaky ground;' Cooper reduces indoor gathering limit to 10 people
Posted November 10, 2020 1:20 p.m. EST
Updated November 11, 2020 4:19 a.m. EST
Raleigh, N.C. — Gov. Roy Cooper and Secretary of Health and Human Services Dr. Mandy Cohen updated the state's coronavirus response Tuesday, a day where hospitalizations for and reported new cases of the virus were near record highs.
The state's rolling, seven-day average of cases is the highest it has been – 2,438 – higher than a peak in mid-July. On Tuesday, North Carolina reported 2,582 new cases and 45 more deaths. To date, more than 4,600 people have died of COVID-19 in the state, and almost 300,000 people have tested positive for it.
Hospitalizations, at 1,230 on Tuesday, are also the highest they've been since the pandemic began. For a month, the daily number of hospitalizations has been higher than 1,000 statewide, a higher and longer peak than in early August.
"The trend of new cases is up considerably in the last month, and we are experiencing a new peak," Cohen said. "Bottom line: We are on shaky ground."
North Carolina, however, has not seen the kind of spikes that other states in the Southeast have.
"The numbers remain troublingly high," Cooper said. "We need to focus on bringing our numbers down."
He issued an updated executive order that extends the "Phase 3" restrictions on capacity at amusement parks, gyms, movie theaters, restaurants and in the outdoor areas of bars, night spots and entertainment and sports venues until 5 p.m. on Dec. 4 and reduces the limit on gatherings indoors to no more than 10 people. The order goes into effect at 5 p.m. Friday.
The steady increase in both cases and hospitalizations roughly aligns with Cooper's most recent loosening of restrictions on businesses and gatherings.
Since the beginning of October, public schools have also begun to reopen, most of them rotating students between in-person and remote learning.
Cooper said he took that into consideration in reducing the limit on indoor gatherings to 10 people.
The order that limits retailers and restaurants to 50% capacity remains the same, and Cooper announced a new program to provide rent or mortgage relief for restaurants.
"The safest thing we can do for our loved ones is to limit travel and to limit getting together, especially indoors," Cohen said. "If you do decide to host a holiday gathering, we can't eliminate risk, but we can minimize it."
Cohen suggested clustering family members from the same household at the same table, cleaning and disinfecting common surfaces and wearing a mask at all times except for when eating. She added that anyone considering traveling for the holidays should get a coronavirus screening test beforehand.
Referring repeatedly to good news recently about progress on a coronavirus vaccine, Cooper said, "Even though this will mean changes for our traditions, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. That takes everybody committing to a safe holiday."
While churches and other religious gatherings are exempt from the governor's executive order, he and Cohen urged church leaders to hold services virtually or take maximum precautions to protect their congregations.
"Just like we would wear a seatbelt when we drive to church or synagogue, wear a mask when you get there," Cohen said.