COVID-19, Higher Ed

State cautions viral spread of COVID remains ‘stubbornly high’

Dr. Deborah Birx (Getty Image:Credit: Alex Wong)

ECU announces multiple new clusters at fraternities, sororities

White House coronavirus task force coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx traveled to North Carolina on Wednesday to learn more about what was and wasn’t working in preventing the spread of COVID-19.

State Health and Human Service Secretary Mandy Cohen told reporters Thursday that North Carolina is now listed in the ‘red zone’ by the federal task force of states experiencing a noticeable uptick in COVID cases in recent weeks.

“Some areas of our state have plateaued at a stubbornly high-rate of viral spread,” explained Sec. Cohen. “While Dr. Birx noted North Carolina has done a good job avoiding the surges that plagued the South and other parts of the country, she did emphasize that continued vigilance was paramount.”

Cohen said the state also used the one-on-one time with Dr. Birx to make several specific asks of the federal government, including the need for national leaders to model effective prevention strategies such as wearing face coverings and social distancing when visiting the North Carolina.

“When visitors come to our state on either side of the aisle, whether it’s the candidate or their surrogates, we need to make sure we continue to do our prevention efforts,” Dr. Cohen said.

Other requests from the Cooper administration included:

State Health and Human Service Secretary Mandy Cohen

  • Increased allocations for reagents for health system laboratories.
  • Details on the federal government’s inventory and distribution plans for rapid testing (Abbot Binax Now)
  • Timing on when detailed vaccine planning guidance would be issued as well as required reporting elements and a provider enrollment agreement.
  • Additional funds to continue supporting child care programs.
  • An extension of the Pandemic EBT program beyond September 30th and flexibility for students in hybrid (part remote and part in-person) learning environments.

North Carolina had seen a decline in COVID cases in early August, only to move in the wrong direction as college-age students returned to universities across the state.

North Carolina’s COVID-19 dashboard shows that 18-24 year-old make up 16% (more than 29,500 cases) of the coronavirus.

“We are seeing particularly out East more cases of COVID-19, so we are watching that more closely, particularly in these college towns,” cautioned Cohen. “We’re encouraging everyone in those settings to get tested. If you think you’ve had exposure to students or campus activities.”

East Carolina University announced Thursday new clusters of COVID-19 cases within 13 different ECU fraternities and sororities.

A “cluster” is defined by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services as a minimum of five cases.

More than 1,000 ECU students have confirmed cases of COVID-19, with a positive test rate of 14 percent, according to the university’s public dashboard.

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