Mandatory face coverings? NC health leaders discuss possibility

Announcement on next phase to be made next week

Mandatory face coverings? NC health leaders discuss possibility

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - As coronavirus trends continue down the wrong path, North Carolina health leaders are discussing if face coverings should be made mandatory.

With less than two weeks until the expiration of Phase 2, Gov. Roy Cooper and Dr. Mandy Cohen, with the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, answered questions regarding the use of face coverings in public as a way to slow the spread of the virus.

Currently, healthcare workers and those working closely with patients or clients must wear face coverings.

“Our health experts are looking at the studies, showing the effectiveness of cloth face coverings,” Cooper said on Monday. “We want people voluntarily to do this but we are looking at additional rules to potentially make these mandatory.”

Over the weekend, North Carolina has reported more than 3,000 new coronavirus cases.

There have been 45,102 people who have tested positive in North Carolina since March 3. The death toll from across the state has reached 1,118, as of Monday.

The state had 983 new cases reported on Monday, which was the first time in six days that the state reported less than 1,000 new cases.

“We have studies that show the importance of wearing face coverings to slow the spread,” Cohen said. “The face covering really shows effectiveness when we have many folks doing it altogether.”

Phase 2 is expected to expire on June 26.

However, Cooper and health officials will determine next week if it is safe to move on to the next phase.

Restaurants and retail stories are still at limited capacity.

Bowling alleys, movie theatres, bars and gyms are among the businesses across the state that have not been permitted to open.

Cohen said that restaurants that turn into bars later in the evening must still abide by the guidelines issued by the state.

“We want to be able to move through additional phases. We need to do those actions together,” Cohen said.

Last week, Cohen provided statistics and data showing the uptick in results, and said she is concerned by the trajectory.

Currently, there are nearly 800 hospitalizations in North Carolina.

“I am still concerned about our COVID-19 trends,” Cohen said. “This virus is still a serious threat.”

Cohen said the metric of lab-confirmed cases is trending up and is accelerating.

The percentage of positive tests is at 10 percent, which Cohen said, is among one of the worst rates in the country.

Cohen said she wants the percentage to be around 5 percent.

Hospitalizations in North Carolina is rising.

Cohen said that daily testing continues to increase.

To date, 638,479 tests have been completed.

“We are making significant progress in expanding our testing,” Cohen said. “Over the past month, we’ve about tripled our testing.”

Cohen recommends anyone who goes out to businesses to wear a face covering, wash your hands and social distance.

Also, if you attended a mass gathering or work in a setting of a high-risk exposure, and think you may have COVID-19 even if you aren’t showing symptoms, to go get tested.

On Wednesday, health leaders urged those who have attended a protest recently to get tested for COVID-19.

Atrium Health’s Dr. Katie Passeretti said if you participate in a protest today, don’t rush to get tested tomorrow as it could take up to two weeks for the virus to present itself.

The day after you’re exposed to an infectious disease, you won’t test positive. So, it’s more useful a bit further out, 5-7 days after that exposure. And There’s a chance you could still get turned away because most systems are testing people who are showing symptoms or have had contact with someone who has the virus.

Novant Health released a statement which reads, in part, they "will continue to work with our local and state partners to ensure our clinical viewpoint is included in follow-up policies that will help ensure our models demonstrate we can manage any necessary increases in system demands.”

In an effort to help with testing in areas hit hardest by the pandemic, NCDHHS announced the COVID-19 Community Testing in Historically Marginalized Populations: Best Practices site. You can find that here.

The updated guidance recommends that clinicians conduct, or arrange for diagnostic COVID-19 testing, for:

· Anyone with symptoms suggestive of COVID-19.

· Close contacts of known positive cases, regardless of symptoms.

· The following groups are some of the populations with higher risk of exposure or a higher risk of severe disease if they become infected. People in these groups should get tested if they believe they may have been exposed to COVID-19, whether or not they have symptoms:

1. People who live in or have regular contact with high-risk settings (e.g., long-term care facility, homeless shelter, correctional facility, migrant farmworker camp).

2. Historically marginalized populations who may be at higher risk for exposure.

3. Frontline and essential workers (grocery store clerks, gas station attendants, child care workers, construction sites, processing plants, etc.) in settings where social distancing is difficult to maintain.

4. Health care workers or first responders (e.g. EMS, law enforcement, fire department, military).

5. People who are at high risk of severe illness (e.g., people over 65 years of age, people of any age with underlying health conditions).

· People who have attended protests, rallies, or other mass gatherings could have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 or could have exposed others. Testing should be considered for people who attended such events, particularly if they were in crowds or other situations where they couldn’t practice effective social distancing.

NCDHHS also released new tools to help people who are considering being tested for COVID-19 find a nearby testing place:

· Check My Symptoms (www.ncdhhs.gov/symptoms), a public website that allows people to enter their symptoms to determine if they should consider getting tested for COVID-19. If a test is recommended, they will receive a link to a list of nearby testing sites via email or text.

· Find My Testing Place (www.ncdhhs.gov/TestingPlace), a public website that allows people to enter their county or ZIP code and access a list of nearby testing site locations online.

Copyright 2020 WBTV. All rights reserved.