RALEIGH, N.C. (WECT) - While there have been more than 4,800 positive cases of coronavirus in North Carolina, leaders are encouraged by the slow growth and flattening the curve.
"To characterize those figures another way, we continue to see the spread of the virus accelerate through North Carolina but at a much slower pace because of people following my executive orders on social distancing," said Gov. Roy Cooper during a press conference Monday afternoon.
Epidemiologists have been running models on North Carolina’s caseload and our hospitals’ ability to care for those who are sick. According to Cooper, these models show consistently that our executive orders work and that wholesale lifting of the orders would be a catastrophe.
Cooper and North Carolina health officials are encouraging residents to really adhere to the stay at home orders put in place so that there can be positive results when new executive orders are put into place at the end of the month.
"I'm encouraging everyone to stay at home to flatten this curve," Cooper said.
"Social distancing is our strongest weapon against COVID-19," said NCDHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen.
Cooper's newest executive order on retailers takes effect Monday at 5 p.m., requiring stores in North Carolina to limit capacity to 20% of its fire capcacity or 5 people for every 1,000 feet.
Store management must clearly mark six feet of distance in places like checkout lines and offer hand sanitizer to customers. Stores will be required to do frequent cleaning as well.
According to Cooper, 561,000 people in North Carolina have filed for unemployment and $66 million in benefits have been sent to these people so far. Cooper stressed leaders are continuing to build capacity at the Division of Employment Security and are processing claims and issuing checks as quickly as possible.
"Every hour counts when you're wondering how you're going to buy groceries," Cooper said.
The DES says it intends to implement the federal programs in the following order:
- Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC). This program provides an additional $600 in weekly unemployment insurance benefits to eligible claimants. DES currently is testing the payment system and anticipates making the first payments by April 17.
- Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA). This program provides unemployment compensation for individuals not eligible for regular unemployment insurance, such as independent contractors and self-employed workers, and those who have exhausted any extensions to unemployment insurance. The DES estimates online filing system will be ready to accept claims for this assistance program around April 25.
- Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC). This program provides up to 13 additional weeks of benefits for those who have exhausted their state unemployment benefits. As a timeline for this program is available, DES will update the public on when online claims will be accepted.
For updates about eligibility and information on how to apply for these benefits, go to des.nc.gov.