Governor Cooper Gives COVID-19 County Alert Update, Calls on North Carolinians to Stay Vigilant this Holiday Season
Today, Governor Roy Cooper and Secretary of North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Dr. Mandy Cohen shared updates on the COVID-19 County Alert System, warning that more than 90 percent of North Carolina counties are now designated as red or orange.
“North Carolina needs to drive down our numbers. To do that, we all need to change our holiday plans if you haven’t already,” Governor Cooper said. “The best and safest option is to connect virtually or by phone. But if you gather in-person, keep it small and do it outside. Get a COVID-19 test before you go. Spread out the tables and chairs. Follow the modified Stay at Home Order and be home by 10 PM. And, always, always wear a mask.”
The County Alert System uses COVID-19 case rates, the percent of tests that are positive and hospital impact within the county to categorize counties into the following tiers:
There are currently 65 red counties, 27 orange counties and only 8 yellow counties. Read the updated report to see where each county stands and how the alert system was designed.
“The county alert map shows how quickly things can escalate. As you think about the upcoming Christmas and New Year holidays please avoid traveling and gathering. If you absolutely must, get tested ahead of time, wear a mask all the time, keep it small and keep it outdoors,” said Secretary Mandy K. Cohen, M.D.
Governor Cooper and Dr. Cohen also highlighted updates on North Carolina’s distribution of two COVID-19 vaccines. The state expects to receive approximately 60,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine and 176,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine. The Moderna vaccine does not require ultra-cold storage and is slated to go to 59 hospitals and 97 local health department sites.
Governor Cooper and health officials warned against traveling and large gatherings ahead of the Christmas and New Year’s holidays. The Governor also reminded people that the statewide mask mandate and Modified Stay at Home Order requiring people to be home between 10 PM and 5 AM will still be in effect through the holidays until at least January 8, 2021
Pastor Joseph Casteel from First United Methodist Church in Roanoke Rapids and Reverend James White from Christ Our King Community Church in Raleigh joined today’s briefing to discuss how critical it is for communities of faith to follow the safety measures while celebrating. They stress that the most important thing people can do for their communities this Christmas is taking the steps necessary to protect their communities, even if that means pausing or adapting traditions.
"The opportunity for you and your family to remain safe, an opportunity not to put anyone else at risk and, the freedom for you to choose the time for meaningful worship that works for you. It’s a win-win. There will be a myriad of online opportunities for meaningful worship. It will be okay," Pastor Joseph Casteel said.
"Pastors, Rabbis and other faith leaders are often expected to have words of hope. Maybe we are all appropriately lost for words. What is most needed are actions and perspectives that will lead to life now and in the future," Rev. James White said. "Perhaps we all need to figure out how to create celebrations in the midst of limitations. This is not as impossible as it may sound."
The CDC is encouraging people to avoid traveling for the holidays. If continuing to gather, state officials urge North Carolinians to keep get togethers small and outside with social distancing and masks. People can also get a COVID-19 test ahead of gathering.
Read the full holiday guidance from NCDHHS.
The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services today added data on people vaccinated to the NC COVID-19 Dashboard. Data will be provided for the total number of people statewide and by county of residence who have received the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. Data for people who have received the second dose of the vaccine will be added in January.
Today’s dashboard reflects data through Tuesday, December 22 at 8 a.m. It shows less than a week of data for the state. Most hospitals in North Carolina did not receive their first shipment from Pfizer until Thursday, December 17 and continued ramping up vaccine administration through the weekend. There can be a 72-hour lag in data reported to state. Additional data reported after 8:00 a.m. December 22 will be reflected in the next dashboard update on December 29.
In addition to counts, the dashboard will include statewide data on vaccinations by race, ethnicity, gender and age group. The data will provide insight into the total people vaccinated across the state and the different demographic groups that have received each dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. The initial data will not include vaccinations in long-term care facilities as those are being managed by the federal government through a contract with CVS and Walgreens. NCDHHS is working with both companies to access and report this data.
The vaccine data will be updated weekly on Tuesdays. NCDHHS will continue to expand the information provided as more people are vaccinated across the state.
North Carolina’s information on people vaccinated comes from the COVID-19 Vaccine Management System (CVMS), a secure, web-based system provided for free to all who administer COVID-19 vaccinations. It helps vaccine providers know who has been vaccinated with which vaccine to make sure people get the second dose of the same vaccine at the right time. It also helps people register for vaccination at the appropriate time and allows the state to manage vaccine supply.
Information on vaccination is confidential health information that is carefully managed to protect patient privacy. Information will not be shared except in accordance with state and federal law.
Visit https://covid19.ncdhhs.gov/vaccines for more information on the vaccines and vaccine distribution in North Carolina.
The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services is reporting the state’s highest one-day number of COVID-19 cases with 8,444 new cases reported today, doubling a record day reported just one month ago on Nov. 19 when the state reported 4,296 new cases.
"I am very worried for our state. Everyone must act right now to protect each other," said NCDHHS Secretary Mandy K. Cohen, M.D. "Do not wait until it’s you or your loved sick with COVID-19 to wear a mask, wait apart from others and wash your hands often. Do not wait until it’s you or your loved one alone in a hospital bed. Do not wait until you’ve lost a loved one to this pandemic. Take personal responsibility for you, your loved ones and your community now."
COVID-19 is highly contagious, and more than half of North Carolinians are at high risk for serious illness. Studies are also finding that some people, including those who had mild illness, experience symptoms for weeks or months following infection.
State health officials advise people to avoid travel over the holiday season and only gather with people in your household. If you absolutely must travel or be with people you do not live with, get tested in advance, keep it small and outdoors, and always wear a mask. NCDHHS has issued guidance outlining steps to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19, including getting tested three to four days ahead of time. A test can help someone know if they have COVID-19 even if they do not yet have symptoms. However, a test can miss some infections. Furthermore, a negative test only gives you information for that point in time. Community testing events and other testing sites are listed online at ncdhhs.gov/testingplace.
People who have been recently diagnosed with COVID-19, have symptoms of COVID-19 or have been around a person with COVID-19, should not host or participate in any in-person gatherings until they complete their isolation or quarantine period.
For a full list of guidance about traveling and gathering during the holidays, along with a chart outlining low, medium and high-risk activities, see the NCDHHS Interim Guidance for Winter Holidays.
North Carolina's Modified Stay at Home Order is in effect. This order requires people to stay at home between the hours of 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. Businesses including restaurants, bars, entertainment venues, personal care businesses, most retail stores and more, are required to close by 10 p.m. In addition, all onsite alcohol consumption sales must end by 9 p.m.
January is National Mentoring Month, and this year, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Western North Carolina is celebrating it by recruiting more adult and high school volunteers, as well as children and youth who need an extra someone on their side.
“One truth I know,” said Lelia Duncan, Executive Director of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Western North Carolina, “is that we are all called to take care of one another, to encourage, to uplift, to hold a space for others to be listened to and valued. There is nothing more important, nothing closer to the divine, than to be present and to take a moment to nurture those around us, especially children and youth.”
Big Brothers Big Sisters of WNC is especially effective in helping young people feel valued and heard. Surveys of school personnel in the 2018-2019 school year show that, among BBBSWNC Littles in community- and school/site-based programs ...
To learn more about becoming a Big Brother or a Big Sister in the 18 counties in BBBSWNC’s region, go to bbbswnc.org.
About Big Brothers Big Sisters of Western North Carolina
Big Brothers Big Sisters, the nation’s largest donor- and volunteer-supported mentoring network, holds itself accountable to its “Littles” and supporters by measuring rates of success that include higher aspirations, better relationships, greater self-confidence and avoidance of risky behaviors. Partnering with parents/guardians, schools, corporations and other community members, BBBS carefully pairs children with screened volunteers and monitors and supports these mentoring matches. Big Brothers Big Sisters provides children facing adversity with strong, enduring, professionally supported one-to-one relationships that ignite their potential. Big Brothers Big Sisters of Western North Carolina, a 501(c)3 tax-exempt organization, has 10 branches in the mountain region, with plans to open several more in 2021.
Erlanger Health System announced Monday, Dec. 14, that LIFE FORCE, the health system’s critical care air medical program, has achieved re-accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation of Medical Transport Systems (CAMTS).
“Earning and maintaining this accreditation for the past nine years displays the dedication of our employees and their passion for providing the highest level of critical care to the communities we serve,” said Robbie Tester, LIFE FORCE Senior Director. “I am incredibly proud of our team for achieving CAMTS accreditation yet again and providing such an admired level of care to our patients.”
CAMTS is a collective of nonprofit organizations dedicated to improving the quality and safety of medical transport services. The commission offers a voluntary program for evaluation of compliance with standards demonstrating the ability to deliver service of a specific quality. LIFE FORCE is committed to the standards set forth by CAMTS and continues to participate in the process.
Prior to the site survey, LIFE FORCE submitted information that included policies and procedures, meeting minutes, shift schedules, quality metric reports and education records. The program was reviewed on program management and corporate ethics, quality management, patient care, staff onboarding, continuing education, medical direction, communication standards, aviation standards and safety, and pilot and aviation mechanic standards and safety.
LIFE FORCE has been providing air medical transport to the Chattanooga region for the last 31 years. It operates six bases in Tennessee, Georgia, and North Carolina that covers over 50,000 square miles. LIFE FORCE is nationally ranked as one of the highest performing air medical programs in the country. On average, LIFE FORCE transports approximately 2,500 patients each year. It is the only air ambulance program in the region that carries ultrasound, blood, and plasma and is credentialed by physicians at Erlanger to perform emergency surgical procedures. All LIFE FORCE flight nurses and paramedics are board-certified in critical care transport. LIFE FORCE is one of only 5% of the country's programs that have achieved and maintains this standard. To learn more about LIFE FORCE, visit www.lifeforceairmed.com.
Erlanger Health System announces changes to the visitation policy in an effort to curb community spread and protect staff, patients, and the community at large. Beginning tomorrow, December 12, Erlanger will not allow visitors at all Erlanger hospitals, with limited exceptions.
The visitation policy for end-of-life, Obstetrics, NICU, and Children’s Hospital at Erlanger will remain unchanged. Limited exceptions on a case-by-case basis will be accepted.
The decision to limit visitors was made after careful consideration of the changing situation with COVID-19 and the rapid community spread. Erlanger officials will continuously monitor this situation and make changes as needed.
For more information and the current visitation policy, visit Erlanger.org/coronavirus
The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services is encouraging all North Carolinians who have not done so already to get vaccinated against the flu. Flu Vaccination Week, observed nationally and in North Carolina Dec. 6-12, serves as a reminder that it is never too late to get vaccinated and help protect yourself and others from this dangerous, sometimes deadly virus.
Flu infections are most common in the state from late fall to early spring with activity usually peaking in January or February.
“It’s more important than ever that North Carolinians be as healthy as possible,” said NCDHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen, MD. “Fortunately when it comes to the flu, there’s a clear, simple step everyone can take to protect themselves and their families. It’s not too late. Make a plan today and get your flu shot.”
Flu shots are available at hospitals, pharmacies, private medical offices, some federally qualified health care centers and local health departments. Visit vaccinefinder.org/find-vaccine to find locations in your community.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends vaccination against the flu for everyone 6 months and older with any licensed, age-appropriate flu vaccine. Vaccination is the best way to prevent infection with the flu.
Flu vaccination is safe and effective and has been shown to reduce severity of illness in people who get vaccinated but still get sick, making it especially important for those at higher risk of more serious outcomes. People at higher risk include those over 65 years of age, children younger than 5, pregnant women and those with certain medical conditions such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease and obesity.
In addition to getting a flu vaccine, everyone should practice the following essential precautions to protect against the spread of flu, COVID-19 and other viruses:
For more information on influenza in North Carolina, visit flu.ncdhhs.gov. Updates on flu surveillance data are posted weekly throughout flu season.
With Key Metrics Increasing Rapidly, North Carolina to Begin Modified Stay at Home Order to Slow COVID-19 Spread
Order will require people to stay at home from 10 pm to 5 am with certain businesses required to be closed during those hours
More than 80 percent of NC counties now in the red or orange categories
Governor Roy Cooper and North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen today announced that North Carolina will begin a Modified Stay at Home Order after a rapid increase in North Carolina’s key COVID-19 trends. The Order requires people to stay at home between 10 pm and 5 am and takes effect Friday, December 11 and will be in place until at least January 8, 2021.
“We already have strong safety protocols and capacity limitations in place – including a statewide mask requirement. With this additional action beginning Friday, we hope to get these numbers down,” Governor Cooper said. “Our new modified Stay At Home order aims to limit gatherings and get people home where they are safer, especially during the holidays. It’s also a reminder that we must be vigilant the rest of the day – wearing a face mask when we are with people we don’t live with, keeping a safe distance from others and washing our hands a lot.”
The Order requires restaurants, bars, entertainment venues, personal care businesses and more to close at 10 pm. Travel to and from work; to obtain food, medical care, fuel or social services; or to take care of a family member is exempted. Read more in the Frequently Asked Questions document.
In the past week, North Carolina’s case count has broken single-day records on three separate days, including crossing more than 6,000 cases per day on two of those days. Just a month ago, cases were under 3,000 per day. In recent days, the percent of tests returning positive has increased to more than 10%.
Governor Cooper was clear that further action would be taken to slow the spread of the virus if trends do not improve. This could require further limiting of restaurant dining, indoor entertainment or shopping and retail capacity restrictions, among other safety protocols.
Dr. Cohen also provided an update on North Carolina’s COVID-19 County Alert System map. The number of red counties (critical community spread) has more than doubled since November 23, up to 48 red counties from 20 red counties. There are now 34 orange counties (substantial community spread), as compared to 42 orange counties from the previous report. With today’s report, more than 80% of the state’s counties fall into the red or orange tier. Read the update to see where each county stands and how the system was designed.
“Your actions can keep people from getting sick, save lives, and make sure our hospitals can care for people whether it’s for a heart attack or a car accident or COVID-19. Protect yourself, your loved ones, and your community now,” said NCDHHS Secretary Mandy K. Cohen, M.D.
Dr. Cohen also provided an update on North Carolina’s data and trends.
Trajectory in COVID-Like Illness (CLI) Surveillance Over 14 Days
Trajectory of Confirmed Cases Over 14 Days
Trajectory in Percent of Tests Returning Positive Over 14 Days
Trajectory in Hospitalizations 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.
Personal Protective Equipment
Read Executive Order 181.
Read a Frequently Asked Questions document about the Order.
Read the slides from today’s briefing.
Wildlife Forever is proud to recognize the USDA Forest Service, Southern Region for their support of the 2021 Fish Art Contest. By teaching youth the Art of Conservation®, the national partnership reaches thousands of young people each year and is used by educators as an introduction to outdoor recreation.
The award-winning Art of Conservation Fish Art Contest connects young people to fish, fishing, and aquatic conservation through art, writing, and science. To enter, contestants create an original illustration of any species from the Official Fish List and a one-page writing entry. Entries are due postmarked by March 31st each year. For details on contest rules, entry forms, and to view past winners, visit www.FishArt.org.
Amy Commens-Carson, Regional Fisheries Program Manager at the USDA Forest Service Southern Region, said, "The Fish Art Contest is an exciting and innovative program that allows young people to express connections to the outdoors through their own creativity. The Southern Region is proud to help build the next generation of conservation stewards across the country with the Fish Art Contest."
"The Art of Conservation Fish Art Contest eliminates many traditional barriers and provides an all-inclusive platform for youth education. The USDA Forest Service is a leader in supporting conservation initiatives and building stewardship. I am grateful for their vision and support. Investing in youth is the key to our future," said President and CEO of Wildlife Forever, Pat Conzemius.
The 2021 State-Fish Art Contest is now open and accepting entries. The deadline to enter is March 31st, 2021 so start creating today! Details available at www.FishArt.org
About the Fish Art Contest: The award-winning Wildlife Forever Fish Art™ Contest, with support from Title Sponsor Bass Pro Shops, the USDA Forest Service and Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation, brings children, art and aquatic conservation together! The annual contest reaches thousands of youth each year. New distance learning resources allow students to participate from home or classroom and complement a wide array of educational programming. To enter, young artists create an original illustration of any fish from the Official Fish list and written words detailing its habitat, and efforts to conserve it. Entries are categorized in four grade levels: K-3, 4-6, 7-9, and 10-12. Educators nationwide utilize Fish On!, the full-color Fish Art Lesson Plan, integrating the disciplines of science and art. Entries are due postmarked or emailed by March 31st each year. www.fishart.org.
About Wildlife Forever: Our mission is to conserve America's wildlife heritage through conservation education, preservation of habitat and management of fish and wildlife. Wildlife Forever is a 501c3 non-profit dedicated to investing resources on the ground. Recent audits reveal that 94% of every dollar supports our award-winning conservation programs. Please, Join Today and learn more about the Fish Art Contest®, Clean Drain Dry Initiative™ and Prairie City USA® at www.WildlifeForever.org.
About the USDA Forest Service: The USDA Forest Service is a multi-use agency that manages and protects 154 national forests and 20 grasslands in 43 states and Puerto Rico. The agency's mission is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the nation's forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations. Learn more about the Forest Service fisheries program at: https://www.fs.fed.us/science-technology/fish-wildlife-plants/fisheries-program
During the winter months here in western North Carolina, the Highway Patrol is offering simple and safe driving tips. The weather in North Carolina is often times unpredictable and this time of year you never know when to expect black ice, snow, icy roads or a mixture of road conditions. The Highway Patrol is asking motorists to be prepared this winter season.
"Winter weather brings new obstacles and responsibilities that the motoring public will experience anytime inclement weather moves into our state. Despite a rather mild winter so far, North Carolina's weather can often change from one day to the next,” says Patrol spokesman, Lt. Jeff Gordon. "It's important that we monitor this weather system and plan accordingly."
Here are a few simple steps to help keep you on the road and less anxious:
Collision Information– first, be patient. Winter weather also limits our capabilities and increases our response time; also, keep in mind that we will be experiencing a high volume of requests for service. Attempt to move your vehicle out of the roadway if you are involved in a minor, non-injury traffic collision; especially if you are in a dangerous area such as a curve or a blind hill. If your vehicle is stranded or wrecked but not in the roadway, attempts to recover your vehicle will have to wait until conditions improve for safety considerations.
Road Conditions - to check the status of road conditions, motorists are asked to go to the Department of Transportation's website at http://www.ncdot.gov/travel/. The public is not advised to dial 911 or the Highway Patrol Communication Centers for road conditions.
However, citizens can contribute to highway safety by reporting erratic drivers to the Highway Patrol by dialing *Hp or *47 on their cellular phones. Callers will remain anonymous and should give a description of the vehicle, location, direction of travel and license number if possible.