Cooper urges NC to move forward with ‘science and facts’ instead of politics as COVID-19 numbers trend higher

Cooper urges NC to move forward with ‘science and facts’ instead of politics as COVID-19 numbers trend higher
A medical worker prepares to administer a COVID-19 swab at a drive-through testing site in Lawrence, N.Y., Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020. (Source: AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Gov. Roy Cooper (D) said Thursday he’s concerned about the state’s already-high COVID-19 numbers trending even higher as the holiday season begins, holding his first briefing on the pandemic since winning re-election this week.

“Most every North Carolinian, every American, is ready to move on from the rough-and-tumble election and to go about our business of trying to fight this pandemic,” he said. “Wearing a mask, whether you did it or not, seemed to be a political statement. Now, we don’t have to worry about that. And, hopefully we can move forward with science and facts and making sure we’re protecting the health and safety of North Carolinians.”

The state reported 2,859 new COVID-19 cases Thursday, the second-highest number of new daily cases since the pandemic began. The country hit a record Wednesday, reporting more than 102,000 new cases.

“Our numbers remain high and though we aren’t seeing a huge spike or hospital overload right now, we need to get these numbers down,” Cooper said.

The governor is weighing whether to extend Phase 3 of the state’s reopening again. The current executive order will end next Friday, Nov. 13. The state first entered phase 3 on Oct. 2, which allowed businesses such as movie theaters and amusement parks to reopen as well as bars but only for outdoor service.

Cooper addressed questions about the potential for the state to move backward on the reopening process.

“We certainly don’t want to, but that we are going to let the data guide our decisions,” he said. “Right now, we don’t have an overload at our hospitals. Right now, we don’t have a massive spike. So, we’re doing some things right.”

State Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen talked about her concerns as people prepare to celebrate the holidays together.

She said the state will release guidance on that in the next several days. She also suggested people who plan to travel to get screened for COVID-19 but noted there are limitations on the accuracy of those tests.

“I’m concerned that our numbers will trend even higher as people gather together for the holidays,” she said.

Dr. Dennis Taylor, president of the North Carolina Nurses Association, said reinstating restrictions is “a serious concern” in the coming months but stressed that people should continue to take steps such as wearing a mask and practicing social distancing to minimize the spread of the virus.

“I think we’d begin to see a gradual closing of some of the larger events, or larger gatherings, as well as some more restrictions on some of the areas where we begin to see clusters,” he said.

Sharon May, who owns Relish Craft Kitchen and Bourbon Bar in Raleigh, said she’s concerned the colder months will make it that much more difficult for her business.

Because of the risk of spreading COVID-19, she still has not opened her restaurant for people to dine inside, instead offering outdoor seating or take-out/delivery.

“As an entrepreneur, you’re supposed to take risks. And, I do all the time. But, this is just a risk that I’ve assessed that I don’t want to be part of the problem,” she said.

She closed the restaurant for two weeks this summer after some employees tested positive for COVID-19.

May said because outdoor dining presents a lower risk of the disease spreading, she felt comfortable reopening the patio for people to eat at her restaurant. Tables are spaced at least six feet apart and have a QR code people can scan if they want to avoid holding a menu.

“I’m less worried about transmission in that setting. So, for me, it’s the weather that worries me more now than rising or lowering cases,” she said.

Her sales are “almost half” of what they were before the pandemic began, she said. With limited heaters outside for the colder months, she’s concerned about the hit she could take with fewer tables available for customers.

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