Cooper: Limit indoor gatherings to 10 or fewer
After weeks of rising coronavirus cases and hospitalizations across the state, Gov. Roy Cooper rolled back the number of people suggested for indoor gatherings, pointing specifically to the holidays and the colder weather to come.
two new cases reported since yesterday, 1, 230 people in the hospital, and, sadly, 4660 people who have died. As the number of people lost to Cove. It increases, and we draw closer to the holiday season. I know many North Carolinians are grieving right now, and I continue to think about them. As we battle this virus today, Dr. Mandy Cohen, our secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, will present our state's Key Cove in 19 metrics. As she will outline, our trends have avoided spikes, but they remained stubbornly high, and that's troubling. Other states have experienced spikes that have jumped quickly on them and their hospitals, causing mawr sickness and death. To avoid that, we need to focus on bringing our numbers down. We know how to do it. Wear a mask, wash your hands, wait 6 ft apart. Thanks to the North Carolinians who are doing those things, if more of us will join, it can help our economy recover and save lives. Right now, I'd like to ask Dr Cohen to present our data. Thank you, Governor. Before we dive into the data, I want to give a shout out to all of the nurse practitioners out there, starting with my mom. It's national nurse practitioner week and are nurse practitioners are carrying a heavy weight on their shoulders of they as they've worked tirelessly to serve on the front lines of this pandemic. Let's honor are nurse practitioners by living up to the message they are sharing this year. Covad, 19, may have started this fight, but together we will win it today. My reason for getting behind the mask is nurses. I love you, Mom. I also want to share some good news. Um, while it is still early, we learned yesterday that one of the vaccines being developed has shown promising results, and the Food and Drug Administration granted emergency use authorization for a new antibody treatment for people at risk for developing severe cove in 19 disease. While the supply of this treatment will be limited at first, I'm very pleased with the progress of our scientific community and what they're doing to fight co vid. Okay, now let's dive into the data as a reminder. Every week we look at a combination of trend metrics cove it like syndrome cases new cases, positive tests as a percentage of total tests and hospitalizations. We also look at testing and tracing capacity along with supplies for PPE. In our first graph, we look at people who have come to the emergency department with co vid like symptoms. This is our earliest detection mechanism. The Yellow Line shows that the trend is going down but remains elevated. Next we look at new cases. This first graph shows you the trajectory of new cases each day. Since we had our first case back in March, you can see the Yellow Line has gone up considerably in the last month and we are experiencing a new peak. If we narrow in on the trajectory of cases from early September through today, you can see a clear picture of what's been happening. Over all, our cases are trending up and this is concerning, particularly as we head into the holidays. Next, we'll look at the percent of tests that are positive. This graph also goes back to the beginning of September, and if you look at this Yellow line, R percent of positive tests has remained fairly level since mid October. However, it is now closer to 7% rather than the 5% we had been seeing back in September. We want this metric at 5% or below on our next graph. We look at day over day hospitalizations. This graph also starts in early September, and the number has been relatively stable since mid October. But you can see our hospitalizations are up since September and overall are too high. As we head into the winter months when hospitals have stretched capacity even in non co vid years, it's a reminder. If you haven't gotten your flu shot, please do that as soon as possible. Okay, here's where we are. Surveillance data has been going down, but still above our baseline. It gets a yellow line. North Carolina's trajectory of cases is up and it gets a red X. North Carolina's trajectory in percent of test returning positive is level, but it's running higher than it was in September. This gets a yellow line, and North Carolina's trajectory of hospitalizations is high, but level we still have capacity. This also gets a yellow line now, to the capacity indicators are testing capacity is good. We're doing a high number of tests in making screening tests available ahead of Thanksgiving. This gets an upward arrow on contact tracing. There have been more than 800 notifications of possible exposure to Cove in 19 through Slow Co Vid and See, You can join the more than 345,000 people who have downloaded Slow Cove It and see two from Apple or Google Play store this metric gets a sideways arrow. RPP supplies remain stable, and we continue to distribute PPE across the state. This indicator also gets a side where he's arrow. Bottom line. We are on shaky ground as we head into Thanksgiving. The safest thing we can do for our loved ones is toe limit travel and to avoid getting together in person, especially indoors. I know that's more easily said than done after so much time apart from our friends and family. So if you're going to travel or get together, plan ahead to reduce the risk to your family and friends. Think about getting a cove in 19 test three or four days ahead of time. A test can help you know if you have Cove in 19, even if you have not had symptoms. If you do test positive for co vid. Stay home and isolate because a test can miss some infections and a negative test on Lee gives you information for that moment in time. It's not a free pass, so you still need to wear your mask and practice all the three W's, including keeping 6 ft apart from each other and washing your hands. Often. Tests are available at state funded community testing events. Other sites may offer tests for this purpose as well, so call ahead to find out, you can go to find my testing place for a list of all community testing events and testing sites. Detailed guidance for traveling and gathering during the holidays is available on our website, including guidance for Black Friday shopping. Let's all keep our friends and family and loved ones safe this holiday season. Remember, it's not how well you know someone when it comes to wearing a mask. If they don't live with you, get behind the mask. Thank you, thank you, Dr Cohen and for your leadership. As you can see, these numbers are too high, considering our trends and cooler weather driving events indoors. North Carolina will remain paused in our current Phase three and we will adjust our indoor gathering limit down from 25 to 10 people. The science shows that the transmission of this virus is much greater indoors, and the more people who are gathered, the easier this virus can spread. We saw increasing spread from social gatherings in October. This reduction in our indoor gathering limit aims to slow the spread and bring down our numbers. It also sends a serious signal to families, friends and neighbors across our state. Success in slowing the spread will help our businesses. In addition, we've been providing some direct help, and this week there will be some additional assistance for restaurants. Starting Thursday, full service restaurants seeking help with rent payments or mortgage interest may apply to the North Carolina Department of Commerce for up to $20,000. As Dr Cohen talked about, Thanksgiving is just two weeks away, and many North Carolinians air focused on how to celebrate the holiday amid the pandemic. There will be the usual concerns about who's carving the turkey and whether you're gonna talk about politics. But we need everyone focused on how to keep safe this holiday season, and I want North Carolinians to keep something else in mind. As plans come together, this pandemic will end. A vaccine is in the final stages of development, and the FDA has authorized a promising new treatment. Hope is on the horizon. This pandemic will not last forever as frustrating and painful a zit ISS. We must keep fighting a little while longer. We don't wanna let the last eight months of sacrifices go to the waist by dropping our guard or ignoring safety measures during family gatherings. We come too far to lose our focus. Now we don't want a spike in cases and deaths that will also hurt our economy. And even though this means changes to longstanding holiday traditions, for many of us take comfort in the fact that there is light at the end of the tunnel. With our continued dedication. By next Thanksgiving or even sooner, this pandemic could be behind us. We could put the sickness in the economic hurt in the rear view mirror. If we pull together, that takes everybody committing to a safe holiday, even if it means changes this year. Reduce the invite list, space out your tables, get a covert tests before the event. Or, better yet, connect virtually. I know North Carolinians are creative, and we'll find amazing ways to celebrate the holidays while still keeping our communities safe. Find a way that works for your family and know that your sacrifice is helping all of our state. Also with me today is the secretary of public safety, Eric Hooks Are Emergency to Management Director Mike Spray Berry, Monica McGee and Brian Tipton, our our sign language interpreters. And behind the scenes Jasmine, Materia and Javier uh Castillo, our Spanish language interpreter's. We can now hear from our media. And if you will state your name and your organization will take the first question. Our first question is from Sharon Van Zweden with Spectrum News. Um, thank you, Governor. This is Sharon Van sweetened with Spectrum News one. How will the state enforced those restaurant restrictions? Well, we already have restaurant restrictions in place, and most restaurants in North Carolina are doing a pretty good job there. At 50% capacity. We want them to wear mass. I know that Dr Cohen has talked to local health departments and local officials about enforcing those safeguards that we have in place for people, so we hope that that will continue this this new order will not change what we're doing. You know, we always wanna be going forward, but we're not going to go forward if we don't think the science and the data shows that we should. And the health experts who keep looking at this say we still need to abide by the safeguards that we have. We know that a lot of people are gonna be moving indoors, and I know a lot of communities have had outdoor events. Uh, we worry about the moving them indoors, and that's why we've lowered the mass gathering limit as part of the next executive order. And Dr Cohen, I don't know if you have any other thoughts about that. Next question, please. Our next question is from Dawn Bond with the News and Observer High. It's on bond with a newsman observer, uh, with us being kind of that the end of the line with face three and now you've been asked versions of this before, But is their face for will be the way that other countries are doing with tears of adding restrictions. Um, and will there be changes like to the alcohol curfew and then regarding the holidays and travel. Have you considered, um, asking people from states with high rates toe quarantine? Well, thanks for that. We believe in continuing to use the metrics that we have in place to determine where North Carolina is. And first we need thio. Make a point that we have not experienced the spikes that a lot of other states have, where their hospitals have become overwhelmed where there is much more sickness and deaths. So we're doing some things right. All of those potential future safeguards are on the table for us to examine. And we certainly want to keep on the table, easing the safeguards that we have in place as we move forward. But we're entering, I think, a very dangerous and potentially uncertain time here in the holidays. As it gets colder, the virus wants to be more active indoors. So we're ratcheting up, uh, the prevention efforts out there to let people know that this is very serious. Dr. Cohen, you may wanna away in on Hi, Don Thea. Other piece I would add around the holidays and travel. You're going to see a lot from from us in terms of communicating about wearing a mask and about appropriate social distancing. Um, and of course, we want folks to be abiding by this new, lower mass gathering limit of no more than 10 people. Um, but we're gonna you're gonna hear a lot more in communication. And in addition, we're asking folks to consider getting a test ahead of their travel or ahead of getting together. So three or four days ahead of Thanksgiving to consider go getting a test you want. You can find those tests at community testing sites where they're free or at other sites there. About 600 or so sites across the state that are offering testing. S O. We think the combination of testing and this continued increase, um, communication. We want folks to know that North Carolina is a place that one. We're all wearing masks to protect each other. We're gonna take all the precautions and follow our Thanksgiving guidance, um, and and work together to make sure that we are following the this new lower mass gathering limit. Thank you. Next question. Please follow up. Don von News and observer influence. Thanks for the follow up given. We're two weeks out of the Thanksgiving travel, though. Is that a definite no with any quarantining and then related to that? Um, have you thought about how to do contact tracing with so much travel? And are there parts of the state or certain counties where contact tracing is in viable because of the amount of viral stuff read already picking Well, First, we there has not been a decision to enact any type of quarantining or travel bans at one point, and I think Dr Cohen's explanation of the safeguards that we have in place at this point or where we wanna be, uh, I think that contact tracing continues to go on, but the level of community spread makes it much more difficult. And I'll let Dr Cohen talk about how that specifically could apply to someone coming in from out of out of state. Thanks, Don. And before I take off my mask, you may see it says slow co vid and see. And I think this is gonna be an important part of our strategy here to remind folks when they are traveling or coming into our state to download slow Covad NC onto their phone again. It tracks. None of your personal information is completely free. And it uses its Bluetooth technology to figure out if you are close by to someone. And again, I think it will be another important tool in our toolbox to do the kind of contact tracing that you are speaking of, Don And already over 800 folks have been notified through that app that they have may have been exposed to Cove in 19. So that will be an important tool, particularly with new people coming into our state. We're gonna you'll Seymour messages from us around slow cove it and see and making sure to download that. So we've added that to our guidance. So if you're having folks come from at a state, they absolutely should download that that app while they're here in our state. Next question, please. Our next question is from Ashley Tally with WRL I thank you for taking my question. I'm wondering other than family gathering for the upcoming holidays. What sort of gathering there you really targeting with this Move back to 10 and will this affect churches? And do you think this is really gonna make a difference? Or are people just kind of worn out with, You know, all of the Kobe precautions in place already we are tarred targeting, uh, and wanting people to know at social community gatherings and family gatherings that this is where we have seen the clusters, particularly in October. This is where we've seen a large part of the outbreaks. So part of this lowering of the 10 from 25 to 10 indoors is to send a signal to those groups that this is a problem. Uh, people tend to let their guard down when they're with people, would they that they know or even people who are family? But as we've said time and again, that doesn't mean they don't have co vid 19 and aren't showing cysts symptoms. So if you don't live with somebody and if you're around with somebody, you should wear the mask and social distance and sending this strong signal to all of these social gatherings, family gatherings, community gatherings, that you really need to narrow the focus when you have them and that you need to be wearing the mask and social distancing. Uh, if you do have them is something that we consider, uh, is critical. And yes, people are tired and frustrated with all of this, But one of the points of this today is we've got a vaccine that is, that is coming. We know that it's gonna take a while for the manufacturing and the distribution process and the final approval. We don't even have final approval from the FDA, but we have another treatment that has shown positive results. And I have faith in American ingenuity, ingenuity and I have faith that our medical and health researchers, a lot of them right here in North Carolina, are gonna find ways to curb this virus. And that is something that we can see out there. So until that time, let's make Mawr effort to do the things that we need to do. And I am so grateful to the people of North Carolina who have had to change their lives, change the way they do things where the mass social distance try to make decisions on what they will and won't let their Children do have to sacrifice visit with people that you love very much these air things that are really hard for North Carolinians. But I think that now that we can see the light at the end of the tunnel, now that we are getting closer to two coming out of this thing, let's don't waste all the time. Let's don't have a major spike here in North Carolina and start overwhelming our hospitals and having to set up outside hospitals and having people needlessly die when we know what we can do. And let's those who haven't been doing this. Let's join in and get it done as a state so that we can begin to ease safeguards and so that we can begin to turn our lives back to normal. You could talk about the new normal law you want, but we know this is not normal with what people have been going through, but it has been necessary in order to save lives. And we have saved lives in North Carolina. So we just got a lot of work to do ahead. And I think that this is a strong signal to particularly the community family groups, that we need to be careful, particularly as the weather gets colder and we enter into holiday season. Do you want to comment on that? Next question, please. I'm follow up. Ashley Tally WRL Mhm. Sorry. Thank you so much. That was a lot of sense that that's where our clusters for coming from. So that's what you're targeting. My follow up question is, does this affect church or religious gathering? It does not. They are excluded from this as a some of the other exclusions that you can see from the executive order. But the principle still applies. And there's been a lot of work by the Department of Health and Human Services with faith leaders about the fact that we really need to be careful that if you're having in person services, you really need to take significant steps to protect. People were encouraging people to continue still having virtual services. And I know a lot of churches still are and have been done very limited in their back to in person. But I'll let Dr Cho and talk about that because I know that they have touched touch base with a lot of faith leaders, uh, about trying to do things they know that will protect the congregation. Hi, actually, governors Exactly. Right. So while churches, May and other religious settings may be exempt from the executive orders. We know that folks are working hard to protect, um, their their communities. We have a faith tool kit that we have worked with the faith community to create and have now been disseminating. We have a team of folks who are making phone calls every day. Two faith leaders across the state, and I've really been appreciative of how, um, how collaborative everyone has been. And I think there are ways for folks to have religious services but doing it in a safe way, whether that's virtually doing them outside, doing them in much smaller groups, making sure to social distance wearing masks all the time. Um and so just like we would wear a seatbelt to protect us as we drive to church or the synagogue were a mask when we get there. So there are ways we convinced ill, Um, make sure that we are connected as communities but protect each other while we're doing that. Thanks. Thank you. Next question, please. Our next question is from Test Bargainer with Fox eight, but good afternoon. Cut barge uber Fox eight. I have two questions for Dr Cohen. First is about the slow cove it and see app. I know you mentioned the amount of downloads and notifications, but I also know that only about 113 people have notified others of a positive result. I was wondering if people were reluctant to share those results. And if the state was addressing this, my second question was about try it hospitals. But if you prefer, I can wait on that with slow Covidien. See, we have about, I think, I said, 345,000 people who have downloaded it and about 800 who have been notified so far. Um, related to it. Um, I think we think that's probably proportional to the kinds of cases that we're seeing in terms of the whole population of 10 million people here in North Carolina. The APP works better when we all downloaded. And so that's our message, particularly for folks who might be traveling from out of state. But right here in North Carolina, go right now to your Google or Apple store. It's completely free, takes no personal identity, valuable information. It doesn't track. You uses Bluetooth. Um, really simple. So the more people that use it the more effective it is as a tool. So we haven't heard about reluctance to use it because it's completely anonymous. Um, I just think more people need need to do that. I'm happy toe Answer questions about hospitals I tried. Hospitals are reporting record high numbers of hospitalizations. Are you working with these hospitals right now to make sure that they will have enough space for people? Thanks for that question. We're watching hospital capacity very closely, as the governor has said, it is very much something we watch multiple times a day, if not every single day, to make sure that we understand where hospitals may be stretched to their capacity. We know some of our smaller hospitals already are feeling stretch because of covert and not cove it. As I said earlier, hospitals in as we go into cooler months, actually already experience a a stretching of their capacity on non covert years. So we're very much looking at capacity across our state. I want to commend the hospitals for really working collaboratively. Together we've seen you some of our bigger hospital systems, taking in co vid patients or taking in very ill patients from some of our smaller hospitals. We moved folks around, and we're working together really well. So I want to commend the hospitals for their transparency for their collaboration together. And we're gonna continue to do that and watch that very closely with a team of people who monitor that, Um, all the time. And we're gonna work hard with those hospitals, But we need to do our part. Every North Carolina needs to do their part so that folks aren't finding themselves at the at the doorstep of their local hospital. So we want to keep everyone safe and healthy. So what, we're gonna make sure to get behind the mask. Thanks. Thank you. Next question, please. Our next question is from Richard Craver with the Winston Salem Journal. Hello, Governor. This is Richard Craver with the With The Salem Journal. Um, this question is actually for Secretary Cohen. Um, we've been following closely the issue involving Cardinal Innovations and, um, least five counties. Now, who have who's county commissioners have voted to want to leave cardinal to go to another behavioral health. M CEO and I was wanting to find out where things stand in terms of the Secretary addressing knows request and what kind of evaluation of measuring stick she's using to determine whether they should be able to go or not. Thanks, Richard, for that question and yes, we have received those letters. In a number of cases, the the counties have indicated some concerns related to Cardinal um, and the services that they're providing. Um, we take those concerns very seriously. Um, we have asked Cardinal for corrective action, which they have outlined in a plan. Our role as regulators is to make sure that that plan turns into action and then they follow through with that. And if they don't that we hold them financially accountable for that s o. I believe that they are making the corrective steps forward. In order to do that, we will review the county's requests for disengagement and re engagement with a different LME M c o. There's an extensive process with that that our department will go through to make sure that we have the right information again. Our our role is to make sure that cardinal is living up to its obligations and delivering the services for the for the folks in North Carolina, I believe the plan that they've outlined, uh, gets gets to to those concerns. But now we have to make sure that those get get implemented. Thanks. Next question, please follow up. Richard Craver, Winston Salem Journal. Yes, Uh, Secretary Cohen, I was gonna ask a follow up question. Do you have a timetable for when you might be making a decision on any of these requests? And do you You have any concerns that this may be systematic, that the other six m. C. S maybe having similar issues? Or is this something that you're determining May be specific to cardinal. Well, thanks for that. There is a defined process that folks need to go through with submitting paperwork and an evaluation from my team. So it is not an immediate process, but we'll step through that over the next coming weeks. Uh, here, as we go through, I do want to remind folks that as we think about delivering mental health services for the state of North Carolina, it is It is a very challenging job, particularly in a state that has not expanded Medicaid. We have underfunded our mental health system and then asked folks to essentially provide coverage for everybody. Um and that's just not. That's an impossible task. What we need to do is actually expand Medicaid, give folks access thio ongoing insurance coverage for both their physical and mental health needs, and make sure that we hold accountable those entities that are meant to deliver those services. So we have some work to do in North Carolina to strengthen our mental health system overall, and so we will continue to do that work. But I think key to that is expanding Medicaid. Thank you. Amen. Next question. Our next question is from Michael Highland with CBS 17. Hi, This is Michael Highland from CBS 17. I want to clarify and reading through the latest executive order and the frequently asked questions, um, can tell us what impact if any, of the decision on the indoor mass gathering limit has on schools, either K through 12 or in colleges. And should this decision in form the decisions local school boards are making now about whether to bring more kids back into classrooms. So first it would not affect schools are universities, and it is more targeted to the social family community gatherings that we have seen, uh, increase spread. But the fact that matter is that the numbers are higher across the state. We encourage schools to look at their local numbers to see how things are going in their communities. And I might want to ask Dr Cohen to step up to see how she thinks that they should consider this reduction in the ah gathering limits. Yes, As the governor said, the schools as K 12 as well as higher ed are exempt from, uh, the executive orders. We continue to have a number of protocols in place for our K 12 schools. Um, we also continued to post information about outbreaks or clusters in our schools. And what we've seen, um, is actually a very low level of viral spread there, which is good. But we need to keep up that work, making sure that we are being vigilant about those protocols wearing masks all the time, keeping social distance, doing the screening and cleaning protocols. Um, and so we'll keep evaluating that again. We've we've said many, many times that having our kids back in school is a top priority, and we want to make sure that we are are appropriately protecting our students and our teachers while, um, are aiming for getting our kids back back in the classroom. I think it is why the governor is doing the hard work today of trying to help everyone understand why we need to slow the spread of this virus when we all work together. It's so our kids could go to school. Um, it's so that they can go to school in person and keep this virus level low, protect our students, protect our teachers as we go through. Thank you. Next question, please. Our next question is from Brian Anderson with the Associated Press. Hi, Governor. Hi, Dr Cohen. Thanks for the time. Brian Anderson here with the E. P. I have a very simple question for each of you and would appreciate a just a direct yes or no. So I don't have to ask him to follow up. I know the two of you are committed to serving the people of North Carolina and our focus on that. But having said that on your behalf, I'm pleading for a straight answer. Yes or no? Are you considering or are you open to considering a position in a Joe Biden administration? No. For May But let me just say for on behalf of Dr Cohen, she is doing amazing job here. We're fortunate that she agreed to come and join my administration in 2000 and 17, but I think she is keeping her head down and doing what she needs to do to move our state forward. And I'm I think that part of the reason why she would be considered and I know that her name's all over the news. One of the reasons she would be considered it's because the fact that North Carolina has done well and has done the things that we need to do to create a positive response so anybody would be fortunate tohave Dr Cohen And of course I want to right here. You need to say anything. She didn't need to say anything, but she said so, uh, next question, please. Our next question in our final question is from Caroline text with WBTV Really mhm. My question was related to that last one. I was going to ask Dr Cohen whether she would consider a spot in the bin it administration. Um, and if you could confirm whether this is the case and where she is in that process. Sure. Well, as the governor said, I think it's flattering to see both North Carolina and, um, the recognition of the work of the Department of Health and Human Services in the national context. Um, it's been, um, a an incredible effort by the team here in North Carolina. And I think everyone should should recognize that, you know, I am focused here on making sure the folks in North Carolina say state safe, particularly over the holidays. I'm gonna keep focused on that. Thank you. If we get Are we good? Okay. Thank you all very much for joining us today. And stay safe, everyone.