Gov. Roy Cooper. Photo: Peter Vankevich

RALEIGH—North Carolina will remain in Safer At Home Phase 2 for another five weeks, until Sept. 5, Gov. Roy Cooper announced today.

As students and staff return to schools, colleges and universities, the state needs to double down on efforts to decrease COVID-19 numbers, he said. 

“Other states that lifted restrictions quickly have had to go backward as their hospital capacity ran dangerously low and their cases jumped higher,” Cooper said. “We will not make that mistake in North Carolina.

He said the state’s COVID-19 numbers are going in a stable direction, due to the state’s implementing the mandatory wearing of face coverings, but the numbers still aren’t where he and others would like them.

“If people do the things we ask them to do we can drive down these numbers,” Cooper said.

The data, said Dr. Mandy Cohen, secretary of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, said the current data are lagging indicators (since the virus has a 10 to 14 day incubation period and the average testing turnaround in the state is three to four days.

Positive COVID-19 tests, as a percentage of all tests administered, are still hovering between 7% and 8%, Cohen added, which is substantially above the desired goal of 5% positivity.

Because the data lags behind real time and because of the school openings this month, they decided to retain Phase 2 for five weeks instead of two or three, Cooper said.

“If people do the things we ask them to do we can drive down these numbers.”

He noted that when he closed schools back in March, the spread of COVID cases started to slow.

While some of North Carolina’s numbers have mostly leveled, any progress is fragile as other states have shown with sudden and devastating surges in viral spread, Cohen said. 

“While overall we are seeing signs of stability, we still have much work to do,” she continued. “Our recent trends show us what is possible when we commit to slowing the spread by wearing face coverings and following those simple but powerful 3Ws.”

This Phase 2 has been in effect since May 22, and its extension means that businesses such as bars and gyms are still officially prohibited from operating.

Trajectory in COVID-Like Illness (CLI) Surveillance Over 14 Days:
North Carolina’s syndromic surveillance trend for COVID-like illness is declining, though remains elevated.

Trajectory of Lab-Confirmed Cases Over 14 Days:
North Carolina’s trajectory of lab-confirmed cases has stabilized but remains high.

Trajectory in Percent of Tests Returning Positive Over 14 Days:
North Carolina’s trajectory in percent of tests returning positive is stable but still elevated. 

Trajectory in Hospitalizations Over 14 Days:
North Carolina’s trajectory of hospitalizations is beginning to level.

In addition to these metrics, the state continues building capacity to be able to adequately respond to an increase in virus spread. These areas include:

Laboratory Testing: 
While testing turnaround times have improved, the number of tests done has decreased over the past week. Testing is a priority for anyone who has symptoms or those who may have been exposed to COVID-19, including: 

  • Anyone who has attended a mass gathering including a protest.
  • Anyone who works in a setting at higher risk of exposure such as a grocery store, restaurant, gas station, or childcare program.
  • People who live or work in high-risk settings such as long-term facilities, homeless shelters, correctional facilities or food processing facility.

Tracing Capability:
We continue hiring contact tracers to bolster the efforts of local health departments. There are over 1,500 full-time and part-time staff supporting contact tracing efforts, including the 615 Community Care of North Carolina (CCNC) contact tracers.

Personal Protective Equipment: 
Our personal protective equipment (PPE) supplies are stable.

View the slides and graphs from today’s presentation. 

Read the Executive Order.

Phase 2 has been extended until 5 p.m. Sept. 11.

According to the Washington Post, as of Aug. 5, at least 154,000 people have died from coronavirus in the U.S. and at least 4,793,000 cases have been reported.

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