Key indicators used to guide decisions throughout pandemic show state’s trends are moving in the right direction
As North Carolina’s numbers continue to show improvement and vaccine distribution increases, Governor Roy Cooper announced today that the state will carefully ease some of its COVID-19 restrictions. Executive Order No. 195 will take effect February 26th at 5 pm and will expire March 26th at 5 pm.
“Today’s action is a show of confidence and trust, but we must remain cautious. People are losing their loved ones each day,” said Governor Cooper. “We must keep up our guard. Many of us are weary, but we cannot let the weariness win. Now is the time to put our strength and resilience to work so that we can continue to turn the corner and get through this.”
“Keep wearing a mask, waiting 6 feet apart, and washing your hands. We’ve seen in the past how fragile progress can be, so we need to keep protecting each other while we get everyone a spot to get their shot,” said North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy K. Cohen, M.D.
Today’s Executive Order lifts the Modified Stay at Home Order requiring people to stay at home and businesses to close to the public between 10 pm and 5 am. The number of people who may gather indoors will increase from 10 to 25, while 50 remains the limit for outdoors. The curfew on the sale of alcohol for onsite consumption will be moved from 9 pm to 11 pm. Some businesses, including bars and amusement parks, will now be open for patrons indoors as they adhere to new occupancy restrictions. Many businesses, venues and arenas will have increased occupancy both indoors and outdoors.
Executive Order No. 195 has two general categories of occupancy restrictions: 30% capacity and 50% capacity. Because indoor spaces have a higher risk of spread for COVID-19, indoor facilities in the 30%-occupancy category may not exceed two hundred fifty (250) people per indoor room or indoor space.
30% Capacity Limit (may not exceed 250-persons in indoor spaces)
50% Capacity Limit
Safety protocols such as masks, social distancing and frequent hand washing will continue to be important as people adjust to the new order, health officials said.
Today marks the first day of eligibility for teachers to receive vaccination as the state begins to expand access to group 3 essential workers. Due to manufacturers’ shipping delays caused by inclement weather, DHHS continues to work with providers to administer both last week’s shipment and this week’s shipment this week and continue to exhaust first dose supply before next week’s shipment arrives.
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 these metrics, the state continues building capacity to adequately respond to an increase in virus spread in testing, tracing and prevention.
Read Executive Order No. 195.
Read Frequently Asked Questions.
View the slides from today’s briefing.
NC Educators, school personnel and child care workers will be eligible for COVID-19 vaccine beginning Feb. 24
Gov. Cooper Outlines Timeline on Group 3 COVID-19 Vaccine Prioritization
Educators, school personnel and child care workers will be eligible for COVID-19 vaccine beginning Feb. 24
North Carolina has administered more than 1 million first doses of vaccine
Today Governor Roy Cooper and North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy K. Cohen, M.D. outlined a timeline for Group 3 frontline workers becoming eligible to receive the Covid-19 vaccine, beginning with anyone working in child care or in PreK – 12 schools on February 24.
“I am grateful to all of our educators and school personnel for going above and beyond in this pandemic to care for children and help them continue to learn,” said Governor Cooper. “Starting with a smaller number of Group 3 frontline essential workers helps providers streamline vaccine distribution effectively and efficiently.”
Because vaccine supply continues to be limited and the Group 3 population of frontline essential workers is so large, the state needs to move to the next group gradually. Those working in child care and schools, such as teachers, bus and van drivers, custodial and maintenance staff, and food service workers, will be eligible first. This includes staff in child care centers and homes, Head Start Programs, Preschool and PreK programs, traditional public schools, charter schools and private schools. (See Deeper Dive for additional detail.)
States must vaccinate people in groups due to limited supply. North Carolina is currently vaccinating people in Groups 1 and 2, which include health care workers, long-term care staff and residents and people 65 and older. In the coming weeks, providers will continue to vaccinate these groups. More than 40 percent of North Carolina’s residents 65 and older have been vaccinated.
Under the timeline outlined today, the state plans to move to additional frontline workers on March 10th.
“Vaccine supply limitations continue to impact how fast we can get all North Carolinians vaccinated,” said Secretary Cohen. “Keep doing the 3Ws. Wear a mask, wait 6 feet apart, and wash your hands often. And be sure to visit YourSpotYourShot.nc.gov for accurate information.”
NCDHHS is working with partners to develop operational guidance to support child care and school staff in accessing vaccines. However, current prevention measures will not change. Schools can and should be providing in-person instruction. Under robust safety measures, all students can be in classrooms, with middle and high school students also following six-feet social distancing protocols.
As of today, North Carolina has administered more than 1 million first doses of vaccine and more than 1.5 million total doses.
North Carolina is expected to received more doses of vaccine over the coming weeks heading into March. This increase and certainty of advance knowledge into the supply chain several weeks out has allowed the state to plan to open vaccinations to group 3. As state officials receive more supply information, additional operational guidance will continue to be provided.
Detailed information about each vaccine group is online at YourShotYourSpot.nc.gov (English) or vacunate.nc.gov (Spanish).
North Carolina Sees Dramatic Drop in Spread of Flu, Other Respiratory Illnesses Thanks to Preventative Practices to Slow Spread of COVID-19
North Carolinians have protected themselves and their loved ones from the flu along with COVID-19 by taking preventative measures such as wearing a mask, staying 6 feet apart from people who do not live with them, and frequently washing their hands or using hand sanitizer.
These preventative measures – known collectively as the 3Ws – have helped dramatically reduce the spread of the flu and other respiratory illnesses across the state, according to data from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.
Compared to past years, North Carolina has seen very low levels of influenza and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) this year, according to data reported to the department by seven of the state’s largest healthcare systems. Similar trends are being seen nationally and globally.
Only four deaths from flu have been reported to NCDHHS so far this season, compared to 186 deaths last season and more than 200 deaths during the 2018-19 season. The data show these low levels of flu and RSV are occurring despite similar or higher levels of testing for both illnesses.
Additionally, NC Medicaid has seen a 98.2% reduction in expense claims for Tamiflu, a drug used to treat the flu.
COVID-19 spreads more easily than the flu and other seasonal respiratory viruses, but mask wearing, social distancing and hand washing have been shown to help slow the spread of both illnesses.
“Altogether, this data tells us the preventative measures we’re taking are working," said NCDHHS Secretary Mandy K. Cohen, M.D. "Not only are the 3Ws having a big impact on the spread of flu and other respiratory viruses, this data shows us that the spread of COVID-19 would likely be much higher if we weren't taking these measures.”
Influenza can place a major strain on the healthcare system, causing between 9 million and 45 million illnesses and 140,000 to 810,000 hospitalizations in the United States each year. Reductions in flu and other respiratory viruses have opened up more capacity for hospitals to handle cases of COVID-19.
“Reducing hospitalizations because of flu and other respiratory illness has been critically important to helping NC’s hospitals manage surges in COVID-19 cases," Cohen said. "We must keep practicing preventative measures such as wearing a mask, waiting six feet apart and washing our hands so we can continue to help save lives."
Governor Cooper, State Education Leaders Say it's Time for In-Person Instruction in K-12 Schools Statewide
Research continues to show mitigation measures allow safe in-person learning, low transmission among students and teachers
Top state education leaders joined Governor Roy Cooper today to call on K-12 school districts across the state to allow in-person instruction for all students. The Governor joined North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) Secretary Mandy Cohen, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Catherine Truitt and State Board of Education Chair Eric Davis to thank educators for their extraordinary work during an unprecedented time, to highlight ongoing research that shows that with proper mitigation measures, in-person learning is safe, and to emphasize the critical importance of ensuring all students have an opportunity to learn in a classroom.
“Protecting the health and safety of the people of this state, especially our children and our teachers, has been our goal,” said Governor Cooper. “We know school is important for reasons beyond academic instruction. School is where students learn social skills, get reliable meals, and find their voices. Research done right here in North Carolina tells us that in-person learning is working and that students can be in classrooms safely with the right safety protocols in place.”
Since the beginning of the pandemic, state leaders have emphasized the importance of returning students to in-person learning as quickly and safely as possible. Children who rely solely on remote instruction are feeling the negative effects of isolation, including learning loss, mental health challenges and food insecurity. The state’s public health toolkit details specific health and safety protocols K-12 schools must implement to keep students and teachers safe during in-person instruction.
Read the updated StrongSchools NC Public Health Toolkit.
“Even with the thousands of students and teachers attending school in-person across the state, we have seen few COVID-19 clusters in our public schools,” said NCDHHS Secretary Mandy K. Cohen, M.D. “Our Department will continue to serve our school communities, offering resources and support so we can keep our school doors open.”
Increasing evidence suggests that, with prevention measures in place, there are low rates of COVID-19 transmission in primary and secondary school settings even with high rates of community transmission. In addition, ongoing medical studies and peer-reviewed data affirm that children infected with COVID-19 generally have mild or no symptoms, and are less likely to spread the disease. Read more at What are We Learning.
“Learning loss resulting from COVID has the potential to be a generational hurdle, but the data we have seen shows us that schools can reopen safely if they adhere to COVID prevention policies,” said Superintendent of Public Instruction Catherine Truitt. “For many schools, the logistics of returning to in-person instruction five days per week will be a challenge, but this is absolutely a challenge we must face head on so that all students have a chance to fulfill their potential. With strong prevention measures in place, and the scientific research to back them, now is the time to act. North Carolina’s students cannot lose any more time.”
“We know that to equitably and fully address the needs of the whole child in every student, it is imperative that schools reopen for in-person instruction,” said State Board Chairman Eric Davis. “Since August, public school leaders have proven the merits of the safety protocols that have kept our schools safe for students and staff.”
The Governor and state health and education officials have made protecting the health and safety of students and educators the top priority since the beginning of the pandemic, moving to fully remote learning last Spring and giving local school districts the flexibility to gradually return to the classroom in September.
Today, Governor Cooper, Superintendent Truitt, Chair Davis and Secretary Cohen sent a letter to local school board members and superintendents encouraging in-person instruction across the state.
Read the letter state leaders sent to school board members and superintendents.
North Carolina has now administered more than 1 million COVID-19 doses across the state. Today, two new resources that will help provide North Carolinians with more information on vaccines were announced. First, the state’s call center has now expanded its operations and will be open seven days a week to help answer questions about vaccine eligibility, how the vaccines work and more. The number for the call center is: 888-675-4567. Additionally, NCDHHS launched an online search tool where users can enter their ZIP code or current location to find nearby vaccine providers.