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.email@example.com. 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.”