NC’s top doctor: honor our country by wearing a mask

Sec. Mandy Cohen

As North Carolinians embark on the Independence Day weekend, the state’s Secretary of Health and Human Services in appealing to the public not to get lackadaisical in protecting themselves from the coronavirus.

“This July 4th, the best way we can honor our country is by honoring each other,” said Sec. Mandy Cohen.

“Wear a face covering to protect your loved ones and neighbors. Wear a face covering to reignite our economy. Wear a face covering so our children can get back to school where they grow, learn and thrive.”

Thursday brought another 1,629 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in North Carolina with 912 people hospitalized.

Health officials expressed concern Thursday that summer travel might lead to more viral spread, as people gather with family and friends over the next few days.

Emergency Management Director Mike Sprayberry said some might be tempted to throw caution to the wind this weekend, but that would be a mistake.

“We all need to remember if we don’t follow the three Ws, we run a great risk of more virus spread,” warned Sprayberry.

Heading into the long weekend Governor Roy Cooper vetoed a series of bills including legislation to reopen skating rinks, bowling alleys as well as gyms and indoor fitness centers.

“As we see in other states with surging COVID-19 case counts, state and local officials must be able to take swift action during this emergency to prevent a surge of patients from overwhelming hospitals and endangering the lives of North Carolinians,” Cooper said in explaining his veto of Senate Bill 599.

“At this critical time, opening bowling alleys, skating rinks, and other indoor entertainment facilities runs contrary to both the troubling trends regarding COVID-19 deaths in North Carolina as well as scientific and medical data, which establishes that COVID-19 is significantly more likely to be transmitted in these settings.”

For a second day in a row, the U.S. recorded more than 50,000 new coronavirus cases on Thursday.


Ahead of holiday weekend, health officials warn public not to let down guard in COVID fight

Independence Day weekend is typically marked by cookouts, beach outings and firework displays.

This year, those traditions come with added risk.

COVID-19 continues to spread widely with 1,186 new cases diagnosed on Tuesday, and more than 64,670 positive cases of the virus statewide.

Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen stresses the importance of wearing a mask in public.

Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen said while many cases can be attributed to the spread in nursing homes, 45% of the state’s cases involve persons who are ages 25-49. Another 13% of the cases are among 18-24-year-olds.

“We need to prevent this virus from spreading further. States like Arizona, Texas, Florida and others are cautionary tales that show us this virus can surge and surge quickly,” warned Cohen.

“This July 4th weekend, make sure that you are making plans to celebrate that involve wearing a face covering, avoiding large crowds, and washing your hands often.”

NCDHHS also announced plans Tuesday to partner with CVS Omnicare to make facility-wide testing available to residents and staff in all of North Carolina’s private skilled-nursing facilities.

The initiative will cover more that 400 nursing homes in our state with approximately 36,000 residents and more than 30,000 staff. Testing will begin this month and continue through August.

And as testing continues to ramp-up, there was a new appeal for help from the federal government.

“Commercial and hospital labs across the country, including here in North Carolina, are again running into shortages of important chemicals called reagents that are needed to process tests,”explained Sec. Cohen.

“As a result, labs are seeing back-ups in processing samples and are taking longer to provide results. Federal action is needed to help address these supply issues.”

COVID-19, News

Gov. Cooper orders statewide mask mandate, pauses reopening for three weeks

A day after Dr. Anthony Fauci warned of an “insidious increase in community spread” of the coronavirus, Governor Roy Cooper put the brakes on moving to the next phase of reopening and ordered a statewide mask mandate.

North Carolina has been in Phase Two since May 22, and this was the week that many bar owners and gym owners had hoped to hear their businesses would be next in line to open their doors.

But the governor told reporters Wednesday that key metrics do not support an easing of restrictions.

“Daily case counts have gone up. The percent of tests returning positive has stayed high,” explained Cooper. “Since May 19th the number of people hospitalized has increased 56 percent.”

The governor said requiring face coverings will cause zero harm, and could determine whether schools will be ready to reopen in just a few weeks.

The highly-anticipated announcement came with strong support from the medical community.

NCNA President Dennis Taylor

“The North Carolina Nurses Association endorses and fully supports the wearing of face coverings, social distancing, and frequent hand hygiene,” said NCNA President Dennis Taylor.

“Please trust this advice. It is not political. It is not an exaggeration.”

Atrium Health’s President and CEO Gene Woods said business partners including the Carolina Panthers, Bank of America, Lowes and Blue Cross Blue Shield are teaming up to donate one million masks to those in need.

“Medical science says to reduce the spread of COVID-19 masking works, and my sincere hope is that all the people of North Carolina can join forces to make wearing a mask not something we feel we have to do – but something that we want to do to keep each other, our neighbors, our children and our loved ones healthy and safe,” said Woods.

Several local municipalities have already implemented mask ordinances, including Raleigh, Knightdale, Southport, Greensboro with  Winston-Salem making plans to act.

Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles took to social media Monday appealing to the governor to make facial coverings mandatory statewide:

Law enforcement can cite a business for failing to enforce the new mask policy, and an individual could face trespassing charges for refusing to wear a mask in a business after being asked to do so.

Roughly eight percent of North Carolina’s COVID tests have come back positive this week.

The data also shows 81 percent of the inpatient hospital beds and 77 percent of the ICU beds are in use, and state health officials remain concerned that a surge could overwhelm the system.

Gov. Cooper said if the numbers show improvement, the state could allow fitness centers, parks and playgrounds to re-open around July 17th.

Recent modeling by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) projects that North Carolina will record 2,782 deaths from COVID-19 by October 1st if no changes are made. That would be more than double the 1,271 deaths from COVID the state has recorded since March.

Higher Ed

NC State Chancellor: We have a responsibility to unite against racism, intolerance

Daniels Hall (Photo: NC State)

NC State University strips the name Daniels Hall from campus, acknowledging white supremacist past

As state workers dismantled the Confederate monument at the Capitol on Monday, NC State’s Board of Trustees voted to strip another symbol of a bygone era from its campus.

The Board voted via teleconference to remove the name Daniels Hall, named in 1938 to honor Josephus Daniels. Daniels served as a trustee of the university and was recognized for his support of NC State’s electrical engineering program.

But the one time publisher of the News & Observer also used his platform to share racist views that historians note fanned the flames of  the Wilmington massacre of 1898.

Today Chancellor Randy Woodson said a building named in Josephus Daniels honor was in complete opposition to the values of NC State.

NC State Chancellor Randy Woodson

“It is contrary to the best interests of our university and serves as a constant reminder of this painful chapter in our state’s history,” explained Woodson.

In less than half-an-hour, trustees voted to remove a name that had stood on the Raleigh campus for 82 years.

The hall will remain unnamed for the foreseeable future as it needs renovations and it’s unclear what the building may be used for next.

NC State plans to look at a new policy for naming buildings as early as this fall.

“As the state’s largest public university we have the responsibility to educate ourselves and those who pass through our doors to overcome ignorance and united us against racism and intolerance,” said Chancellor Woodson.

COVID-19, News

NC’s governor: ‘Strong people wear face coverings’

Governor Roy Cooper

Cooper expected to roll out comprehensive plan next week to slow spread of COVID-19

Governor Roy Cooper told reporters Thursday that wearing a face mask needs to be second nature if we hope to slow down transmission of the coronavirus.

The governor said his team is finalizing details on a plan to be released next week that will help North Carolina get a better handle on the rising number of COVID-19 cases.

That plan will include guidance for businesses and even a few sports celebrities that will help diffuse the notion that wearing a mask takes away one’s personal freedom.

“You’re gonna soon see public service announcements from hockey players and race car drivers and restaurant owners about how important it is for people to wear face coverings,” explained Cooper.

“We gotta remove the politics out of all of this. We gotta realize strong people wear face coverings as a sign of compassion.”

Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen said new research that points to the effectiveness of masks should help convince others to do their part to slow the viral spread.

“I think the more evidence we have helps us understand how we can tailor our actions even further. That’s what we want to be doing, being responsive to the data that just came out this week,” said Dr. Cohen.

Asked why the governor didn’t just issue a statewide order regarding masks this week, he said his office needs time to carefully research the policy.

“You can’t just snap your fingers and say it’s a rule and everybody do it. It’s got to be something that’s well thought through,” said Cooper.

Beginning Friday at 4:00pm, Raleigh will begin requiring people to wear masks when out in public. Durham and Orange County have already put such policies in place.

“You’re also gonna get better results when you can convince people, heart and soul, that this is a good thing to do.”

The governor’s appeal encouraging face coverings and social distancing came as the state legislature gave final approval to SB 599, a measure that would allow bowling alleys and skating rinks to reopen, further increasing places the public could gather.

To date, North Carolina has had 48,188 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with 1,175 death and 875 people hospitalized.