With clean-up from Hurricane Isaias just beginning and college students flocking back to campuses this week, Governor Roy Cooper says the state will pause its COVID-19 reopening plans until after Labor Day.
North Carolina has been in Phase Two since May 22, and bar owners and gym owners have been pushing hard to resume normal business operations.
But North Carolina is just now seeing signs that all the hard work and safety measures are slowing transmission of the coronavirus.
“In keeping with our dimmer-switch approach with schools opening and in order to push for decreasing numbers, North Carolina will remain paused in ‘Safer at Home Phase Two’ for five weeks,” Cooper announced.
North Carolina’s trajectory of lab-confirmed cases over the last 14-days has stabilized but remains high.
The percent of tests returning positive is averaging 7%-8% this week, which is still considered elevated.
Hospitalizations are also beginning to level with 1,167 people hospitalized with COVID-19 on Wednesday.
Health and Human Service Secretary Mandy Cohen believes all of this is good news, but an extended pause in reopening of additional businesses where social distancing is difficult is critical as schools and universities resume this month.
“We know that school reopening is going to happen over a number of weeks over the course of August, and then we want to be able to have a good line of sight after those openings to make sure we understand which way are our trends heading. Are they still going to continue to be stable, or heading downward or going upward?”
Asked whether North Carolina will be in a position to ease restrictions and move into Phase 3 before a vaccine becomes available (likely in 2021), Governor Cooper offered this:
“I hope that we will. If people will do the things that we continue to tell them to do – wear the mask, social distancing, and washing frequently – we can drive down these numbers,” explained Cooper. “We would hope that we could move along in our phases before a vaccine is in effect.”
On Wednesday the CDC reported 4.7 million cases of COVID-19 and 156,311 deaths caused by the virus nationwide. Here’s a closer look at the numbers in North Carolina.