As health officials in the Twin Counties continue to monitor the rise in COVID-19 cases, Gov. Roy Cooper announced Wednesday that North Carolina will remain in Phase 2 of the recovery plan for at least five more weeks.
The last extension of the Safer at Home Phase 2 plan was supposed to expire at 5 p.m. Friday. However, the newly issued Executive Order 155 now extends that deadline to Sept. 11.
Cooper said at a news conference Monday that he feels that this phase should be paused to double down on efforts to curb the spread of COVID-19 as schools and institutions of higher learning begin the fall semester. While most state colleges are returning to modified versions of on-campus learning, only about half of the school districts in the state will be holding any version of in-person instruction as the semester opens, state Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen said at the news conference.
“Other states that lifted restrictions quickly have had to go backward as their hospital capacity ran dangerously low and their cases jumped higher. We will not make that mistake in North Carolina,” Cooper said. “In keeping with our dimmer switch approach with schools opening and in order to push for decreasing numbers which will keep people healthier and boost our economy, North Carolina will remain paused in Safer At Home Phase 2 for five weeks.”
At Monday’s news conference, Cohen shared an update on North Carolina’s COVID-related data trends. Cohen said that while some of North Carolina’s numbers mostly have leveled, any progress is fragile as other states have shown with sudden and devastating surges in viral spread.
“While overall we are seeing signs of stability, we still have much work to do. 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 3W’s,” Cohen said.
The state is looking at four main metrics as state officials make decisions about moving to the next phase of recovery. Cohen said Monday that state data shows that North Carolina’s syndromic surveillance trend for COVID-like illness over the past 14 days is declining, though it remains elevated.
North Carolina’s trajectory in percent of tests returning positive is stable but still elevated, Cohen said. The trajectory of hospitalizations over the past 14 days also is beginning to level.
The trajectory of lab-confirmed cases has stabilized but remains elevated, Cohen said. State data indicates that the number of new cases reported each day is slowing, though it is not clear if this factor is related to a decrease in testing.
The number of cases reported in Nash County also has slowed, though it is too early to tell if this represents a trend, Nash County Health Director Bill Hill said Wednesday. The Nash County Health Department reported 12 new cases Tuesday and another 14 cases Wednesday.
As of Wednesday afternoon, Nash County had a total cumulative positive COVID-19 case count of 1,106. Of that number, 612 people are considered recovered, 454 are isolated at home, 27 are hospitalized and 13 have died.
Edgecombe County now has more than 600 positive cases of COVID-19 reported. As of Wednesday, the cumulative number of cases was 601. Of that number, 500 people are considered recovered and 12 have died.
That latest death was reported in Edgecombe County on Monday. Though the Edgecombe County Health Department refuses to report any demographic information concerning cases, the state Department of Health and Human Services revealed that the latest death was in a non-Hispanic male in the 65-to-74 age range.
Statewide, 129,288 people have tested positive for COVID-19 and 2,050 have died.