State to lift gathering limits, social distancing requirements in all settings and indoor mask mandate for most settings
Today, Governor Roy Cooper and North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy K. Cohen, M.D. shared an update on the state’s COVID-19 progress. Throughout the pandemic, state officials have taken a data-driven approach and have been guided by the science in making decisions. Following yesterday’s guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that fully vaccinated individuals can safely do most activities without wearing a mask or the need to social distance from others, the state will remove its indoor mask mandate for most settings. Additionally, the state will lift all mass gathering limits and social distancing requirements. These changes are now in effect as of 1:30 PM today.
“We can take this step today because the science shows our focus on getting people vaccinated is working,” said Governor Cooper. “But to keep moving forward – and to make sure that we keep saving lives – more people need to get vaccinated.”
The ability to lift restrictions sooner than anticipated following the CDC’s guidance shows the importance of vaccinating all North Carolinians. As of this week, even more people can get vaccinated. Younger teens between 12 and 15 can now get the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. Young people are vulnerable to the COVID-19 virus, just like everyone else, and the percent of COVID-19 cases in North Carolina children 17 and under has been increasing.
North Carolina continues to focus on distributing vaccines quickly and equitably. To date, the state has administered over 7.7 million doses. 51% percent of those 18 and up are at least partially vaccinated, and 46% percent of those 18 and up have been fully vaccinated.
“I am so proud of the incredible progress we have made in beating back this pandemic,” said Secretary Mandy K. Cohen, M.D. “Vaccines continue to be incredibly effective at protecting individuals from this terrible virus. And as more and more people get vaccinated, the results show in our stable metrics with lower cases, lower hospitalizations, and lower deaths.”
In accordance with the new CDC guidance, there will still be certain settings where masks and other safety measures will be required. Masks will still be required in child care, schools and camps as most children are either not yet vaccinated or are not yet eligible to be vaccinated. Everyone, including people who are fully vaccinated will still be required to wear a mask in certain settings such as public transportation, health care settings like hospitals, doctor’s offices and long-term care settings like nursing homes, and certain congregate settings like correctional facilities and homeless shelters.
NCDHHS will continue to have strong public health recommendations for individuals to continue to protect one another until more people are vaccinated. People who are not vaccinated should wear a mask and maintain distance in all indoor public settings and in outdoor settings when they can't maintain six feet of distance.
Masks are strongly recommended for everyone at large crowded indoor events like sporting events and live performances.
NCDHHS recommends public facing businesses post signage reminding guests to social distance and wear a face covering if they are not fully vaccinated; remind employees to self-monitor for symptoms of COVID-19; have a plan to immediately isolate and remove sick workers; and clean high-touch surfaces once a day. Businesses may choose to continue to require that their customers wear masks.
The Department of Health and Human Services will also continue to expand strategies to reach people who have not yet gotten vaccinated.
Information on the state’s vaccine distribution is available at YourSpotYourShot.nc.gov (English) or Vacunate.nc.gov (Spanish). People can find nearby vaccine providers using NCDHHS’ online tool, Find a Vaccine Location. The state’s COVID-19 vaccine hotline number is 888-675-4567.
Read the Executive Order.
Read a FAQ about today’s Order.
Rotary Club of Murphy has several $1,000 scholarships available to Cherokee County students pursuing higher education. The original deadline for receipt of completed applications was Friday, May 14, 2021 but will be extending that to Monday, May 17, 2021 at NOON.
Students will have the weekend to complete the application.
Rotary Club of Murphy offers a $1,000 scholarship to a student at each of Cherokee County's 5 high schools and, in cooperation with his family, a special $1,000 scholarship in memory of Jack Earley who served our community and club for many decades. Jack had a passion for agriculture, vocational and trades programs and this scholarship is a great way to carry on his legacy.
The applications are attached. Once again, the deadline to receive completed applications is at NOON on Monday, May 17, 2021. Instructions on how to submit are on the applications.
Governor Urges N.C. Families to Sign Up Starting May 12 for Discounts on Internet, Computers
North Carolinians can get critical help to pay for high-speed internet from a $3.2 billion federal program opening in May for families and households working, learning and shopping from home during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Many North Carolina families struggle to afford high-speed internet," North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said. "The Emergency Broadband Benefit Program will help bridge the digital divide so that people in need can get online to talk with their doctors, learn remotely, find or do work, and connect with friends and family."
The Emergency Broadband Benefit Program (EBBP) gives a discount of up to $50 a month to a household's internet bill. That increases to $75 a month for those living on tribal lands. Eligible households can also get a one-time discount of $100 toward the purchase of a laptop, tablet or desktop computer through participating providers.
Enrollment in EBBP will open on May 12. Households with an income at or less than 135 percent of federal poverty guidelines are eligible for the EBBP. A household also qualifies if at least one member participates in a federal benefits program such as Medicaid, SNAP, or Lifeline, receives benefits under the free and reduced-price school lunch program, lost a job or a significant amount of income in the past year, received a Federal Pell Grant, or is part of an internet service provider’s low-income or COVID-19 program.
"Affordability is one barrier among the inequities that prevent numerous North Carolina residents and households from accessing high-speed, high-quality internet," Jim Weaver, North Carolina Department of Information Technology (NCDIT) secretary and state chief information officer, said. "This benefit can spur demand for building infrastructure to bring that service into areas of the state that have little or no access to broadband."
Administered by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the program was created by Congress in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 to help Americans access healthcare, jobs, classrooms and businesses during the pandemic. Many types of providers, including those offering landline and wireless broadband, are offering the discount. The FCC gives extensive guidance for providers seeking to participate.
The NCDIT Broadband Infrastructure Office (BIO) offers guidance on how North Carolina households can apply for the benefit and how providers in the state can participate in it.
The FCC's consumer site has detailed information on how households can qualify and apply for the program. Households can also see a list of participating providers in their state. Governor Cooper has called on internet service providers in North Carolina to participate in the program so that more North Carolinians can afford to get online.
The EBBP will end six months after the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services declares the pandemic is over or when the program uses all its $3.2 billion funding, whichever happens first. Providers must notify consumers at least 30 days before the discount ends and must let consumers opt-in to continue service before charging them a higher rate.
To help get high-speed internet service to even more North Carolinians, NCDIT’s Broadband Infrastructure Office is currently conducting a survey to gather better data on broadband availability and quality in the state. All North Carolinians are encouraged to take the five-minute survey by visiting ncbroadband.gov/survey or calling 919-750-0553.
Gov. Cooper Issues Executive Order to Relax State’s Outdoor Mask Mandate and Ease Mass Gathering Limits
State continues to strive to get two thirds of adults at least partially vaccinated
Today, Governor Roy Cooper and North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy K. Cohen, M.D. gave an update on the state’s current data, trends and vaccination progress. As the state’s metrics and key indicators remain stable, Governor Cooper also signed an Executive Order outlining safety measures for the month of May. Executive Order No. 209 will take effect April 30 and is set to expire June 1. As more North Carolinians get vaccinated and adhere to safety protocols over the course of the next month, the state anticipates lifting more restrictions on June 1.
“While our numbers are mostly stable, we have more work to do to beat back this pandemic,” said Governor Cooper. “Let’s work hard in May and get as many people vaccinated as we can before summer gets here.”
Under the new Executive Order, masks will still be required indoors but are no longer mandated outdoors. Masks are still strongly recommended outdoors by NC DHHS in crowded areas and higher risk settings where social distancing is difficult.
Executive Order No. 209 will also increase mass gathering capacity limits. The number of people who may gather indoors will increase from 50 to 100 and the number of people who may gather outdoors will increase from 100 to 200. Occupancy limits currently in place will remain the same.
“Fortunately, we now have enough vaccine for everyone. They are free and widely available across the state. In many places you don’t need appointment,” said Secretary Cohen. “For those who have questions, I encourage you to go to YourSpotYourShot.nc.gov to learn about the benefits of the vaccines, potential temporary reactions you might experience, and answers to common questions.”
North Carolina continues to focus on distributing vaccines quickly and equitably. To date, the state has administered over 7 million doses. 48.7% percent of those 18 and up are at least partially vaccinated, and 39.2% percent of those 18 and up have been fully vaccinated.
State health officials are continuing to monitor COVID-19 and its more contagious variants in North Carolina, which is why it is important to continue to follow the state’s mask mandate and continue to practice safety precautions, including the Three Ws—wear a mask, wait 6 feet apart, and wash hands often.
Dr. Cohen also provided an update on North Carolina’s data and trends.
Trajectory in COVID-Like Illness (CLI) Surveillance Over 14 Days
In addition to monitoring these metrics, the state continues to respond to virus spread in testing, tracing and prevention.
Read Executive Order No. 209.
Read Frequently Asked Questions.
View the slides from today’s briefing.
FCC to Establish 988 as the New Nationwide Number for Suicide Prevention Lifeline and Transition to 10-digit Local Dialing.
On July 16, 2020, the FCC adopted rules to establish 988 as the new nationwide, easy-to-remember 3-digit number for Americans in crisis. The new rule requires all providers, starting July 16, 2022, to route all calls to 988 to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Until then, Americans needing help should continue to contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by calling 800.273.TALK (800.273.8255).
In preparation for the new 988 number, the FCC is also transitioning to 10-digit dialing for all local calls as some area codes use 988. The FCC has adopted the follow timeline for transition:
The Nantahala Ranger District is looking to fill four seasonal and temporary positions for the 2021 summer season through the Youth Conservation Corps (YCC) program. Positions include two YCC crewmembers and two YCC Crew Leaders with a work season from June 21, 2021 through July 31, 2021.
The Youth Conservation Corps (YCC) is a summer employment program for young men and women, ages 15 through 18, who work, learn, and earn together for 8 weeks on projects that help conserve the natural resources of the United States. The three objectives of the program include, accomplishing needed conservation work on public lands, providing gainful employment for 15- through 18-year-old males and females of all social, economic, ethnic, and racial backgrounds and to develop an understanding and appreciation of the Nation's natural environment and heritage for the participating youth.
YCC work projects vary depending on location and current needs of the Forest Service. Projects may include constructing trails, building campground facilities, planting trees, collecting litter, clearing streams, improving wildlife habitat, building fences, office work, and many other worthwhile tasks. There is hard physical work involved in most tasks, and crews work out in the woods away from towns.
Applicants must be 15 years old by June 19, 2021 and must not turn 19 years old by August 1, 2021. To obtain an application visit https://www.fs.usda.gov/working-with-us/opportunities-for-young-people/youth-conservation-corps-opportunities. To submit your application, download the form, fill it out, and email to Viviana Ruiz, Recreation Manager, at Viviana.firstname.lastname@example.org. Applications must be submitted by May 17, 2021.
For more information on this opportunity visit https://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/nfsnc/newsevents/?cid=FSEPRD904721
Shelters along the Appalachian National Scenic Trail in Tennessee, Georgia, North Carolina, and Virginia are now available for use. Hikers are encouraged to bring their own personal tent and face coverings. Earlier in the pandemic these shelters were shut down, along with trailheads.
The shelters are located on national forest land, managed by the Forest Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture. Officials say there are hundreds of shelters averaging about 8 miles apart along the trail, although the intervals vary. Shelters might not be frequently maintained at all locations.
Another overnight option is dispersed camping in designated areas of the national forest. Hikers should be prepared to tent camp if social distancing in shelters is not possible.
Hikers can plan ahead by checking forest websites for site-specific details before their trip. The southern portion of the Appalachian Trail runs through four national forests:
Hikers are encouraged to recreate responsibly, maintain a safe social distance and follow health guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and local health authorities.
Erlanger Western Carolina Hospital first rural NC hospital to offer extended telepsychiatry services
Murphy, N.C. – Erlanger Western Carolina Hospital (EWCH) is the first North Carolina facility to implement extended services of the North Carolina Statewide Telepsychiatry Program (NC-STeP). Regardless of their ability to pay, EWCH patients now have access to critical follow-up behavioral health care coordination after they are discharged from receiving telepsychiatric and teletherapy services in the emergency department.
East Carolina University (ECU) is home to NC-STeP, which is led by nationally-recognized telepsychiatry leader Dr. Sy Saeed. Since 2015, ECU and EWCH have been partners in offering telepsychiatry services to patients in the western North Carolina region. NC-STeP was recently awarded a $1.2 million federal Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) grant to expand telehealth-based mental health services to rural North Carolina emergency departments, where patients who present with acute mental health crises often experience barriers to community resources and ongoing care coordination.
“ECU recognized the vital need for this program in our region and EWCH is thrilled to pilot it for our community,” said EWCH Director of Operations and Associate Chief Nursing Officer Teresa Bowleg, MSN, RN. “Because most people who visit any emergency department do so in a time of crisis, it can be a stressful time for our patients and their families. This service is especially helpful for those patients who suffer from anxiety, depression and situational stressors.”
This expansion project has allowed NC-STeP to provide telebehavioral counseling and care coordination in at least five rural hospital sites, including EWCH. Follow-up care coordination after discharge is critical to ensure that patients have access to additional treatment resources.
“NC-STeP is excited for EWCH to be our first site in the state of North Carolina to offer these new services for patients in need of mental health care,” said Dr. Kalyan Srinivas Muppavarapu, clinical assistant professor of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine Brody School of Medicine at ECU. “EWCH has been an outstanding partner as NC-STeP grows to provide mental health services to rural and underserved areas across the state. EWCH is always open and willing to explore potential solutions that will provide additional mental health resources to the people of western North Carolina. Our team looks forward to working with EWCH to bring these much-needed resources to the region.”
Seniors in Cherokee County looking to continue their education after high school may not realize there are many sources available to help pay for those expenses.
Cherokee County Schools, Cherokee Scout, Rotary Club of Murphy and WKRK wanted to work together to make finding scholarships a bit easier this year.
Below is a list of scholarships currently available. Students should see their Guidance Counselors for more information. Be advised, many deadlines are quickly approaching.
State’s trends continue to move in the right direction and key indicators used to inform decisions throughout the pandemic remain stable
As North Carolina’s trends continue to show improvement and vaccine distribution increases with 31.7% of North Carolinians over 18 having received at least one dose of vaccine, Governor Roy Cooper announced today that the state will continue to ease some COVID-19 restrictions. Executive Order No. 204 will take effect March 26 at 5 pm is set to expire April 30 at 5 pm. The state’s general mask mandate remains in effect.
“Our fast and fair vaccine distribution and our sustained progress with the COVID-19 metrics tell us we can move forward with easing restrictions if we do it safely,” said Governor Cooper.
“We are in a promising place. With North Carolina’s COVID-19 key metrics improving and vaccinations increasing, we can responsibly use our dimmer switch approach to easing restrictions guided by science and data,” said NCDHHS Secretary Mandy K. Cohen, M.D.
Executive Order No. 204 has three general categories of occupancy restrictions: up to 100 percent capacity, 75 percent capacity, and 50 percent capacity. All businesses must continue to maintain the 6 feet of distance requirement between patrons and implement other safety protocols as they expand their capacity.
Executive Order No. 204 will also increase mass gathering limits. The number of people who may gather indoors will increase from 25 to 50 and the number of people who may gather outdoors will increase from 50 to 100. This Order also fully lifts the restriction on the late-night sale and service of alcoholic beverages on bars, restaurants, and other establishments.
Indoors and Outdoors up to 100% Capacity, Subject to Masks and 6 ft. Social Distancing
Indoors up to 75% and Outdoors up to 100% Capacity, Subject to Masks and 6 ft. Social Distancing
Indoors and Outdoors up to 50% Capacity, Subject to Masks and 6 ft. Social Distancing
*Movie theaters and gaming facilities may operate at up to 75% capacity outdoors.
Activities and settings are lower risk when they involve interacting with fewer people, being outside, keeping masks on the entire time, keeping interactions with people short (under 15 minutes), staying physically distant, and avoiding singing, yelling, and cheering, according to public health officials.
North Carolina is continuing to see fast and fair vaccine distribution. To date, the state has administered over 4.1 million doses. Over 31.7 percent of people 18 and up have received at least one dose, and 18.8 percent are fully vaccinated. Vaccine equity efforts remain a priority, with 18 percent of first doses administered to Black North Carolinians and 8 percent to members of the LatinX community last week.
DHHS also released updates to the K-12 guidance. Schools should return to in-person instruction to the fullest extent possible while following all public health protocols in the StrongSchoolsNC Toolkit. This update aligns with Session Law 2021-4, which Governor Cooper and bipartisan legislative leadership worked on together. Plan A has already been widely adopted across the state as districts, educators and support staff have worked hard to get students back in the classroom. The updated Toolkit no longer requires schools to do daily temperature checks and symptom screenings. Safety protocols such as masks and cleaning of high traffic areas are still required. Schools are also highly encouraged to conduct free screening testing as recommended by the CDC. (Read the updated Toolkit)
State health officials are continuing to monitor the presence of COVID-19 and its more contagious variants in North Carolina, which is why it is important to continue to have a mask mandate and continue to practice safety precautions, including the Three Ws—wear a mask, wait 6 feet apart, and wash hands often.
Read Executive Order No. 204.
Read Frequently Asked Questions.
View the slides from today’s briefing.