As COVID deaths top 4,000, state leaders press local officials to help drive down the numbers

DHHS Sec. Mandy Cohen

North Carolina officials have grown increasingly alarmed this week at the quick rise in COVID-related infections and deaths.

On Wednesday, the state surpassed 4,000 COVID-19 deaths, with 98 of those fatalities being recorded just since Sunday.

More than 1,200 people are hospitalized because of the coronavirus, and that number that has exceeded the 1,000 mark since October 5th.

Some smaller hospitals are feeling the strain.

Noting that the state is moving in the wrong direction as we approach fall and winter, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services and the NC Department of Public Safety sent a letter leaders in 36 counties Tuesday asking them to consider local actions to improve compliance with the governor’s executive orders. The letter reads in part:

“We need everyone’s leadership in this moment talking about wearing a mask, waiting six feet apart and washing their hands,” said Governor Roy Cooper.

The governor singled out Halifax County Sheriff Wes Tripp, who reversed course this week in announcing his deputies would begin citing businesses where workers were not in compliance in wearing face coverings.

“More and more law enforcement across the state are beginning to recognize that it is important for them to play a role in enforcement,” said Cooper.

The governor said retail establishment and restaurants should also step up enforcement of the three Ws when they see people not abiding by the health guidelines.

“Ignoring the virus does not make it go away,” reminded DHHS Sec. Mandy Cohen.

Cohen said over the past two weeks North Carolina has seen more COVID clusters from social gatherings such as parties, family gatherings, weddings, and funerals.

Current guidance from the state calls for no gathering to exceed 25 people indoors or 50 people outdoors.

“There are places that need to work harder than they are because we see the virus spreading a lot,” Cohen cautioned.

October’s rise in COVID cases has led the state to pause any additional loosening of restrictions for at least another three weeks.

Learn more about the spread of COVID  in your county by visiting the state’s dashboard.

Social gatherings have sparked a rise in COVID cases since September. (Source: NCDHHS)

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