Cooper declares COVID-19 State of Emergency

By on March 10, 2020

Outer Banks Voice

One day after the state confirmed five new cases of the novel coronavirus in Wake County, bringing the statewide total up to seven, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper declared a State of Emergency in order to deal with the spreading virus. The five new cases are all linked to a February conference that was held in Boston

Surrounded by the state’s top public health officials, Cooper appeared at a noon briefing on March 10 to make the emergency declaration and to try and walk a careful line between alertness and alarm.

“While we do expect many more cases, we can limit the number of people who get seriously ill,” he said. “We do want people to take this seriously. But we also want them to go on living their lives, particularly those not in the high-risk group.”

He stated that the new guidelines for dealing with coronavirus can mean “inconvenience, loss of income and disappointment.” But he added that they are also “lifesaving.”

High risk individuals are defined as people over 65, those with underlying health conditions and those with weakened immune systems.

The briefing also provided information on the scale of testing done so far in the state. State Health Director Dr. Elizabeth Tilson said that as of about noon on March 10, a total of 44 people in North Carolina had been tested at state labs, with another 25 waiting to be tested. The current supply, she indicated, is sufficient to test another 300 people, and she and Cooper talked about efforts to increase testing capacity.

Addressing the issue of school closures, which is randomly occurring elsewhere in the country, Dr. Mandy Cohen, NC Health and Human Services (DHHS) Secretary, said, “the good news is children appear to be at low risk,” with the virus. She added that “closures of schools might be necessary in certain specific circumstances during the course of the epidemic [but] today, we are not recommending any pre-emptive school closures.”

On March 10, DHHS also released a series of new recommendations to deal with outbreak.  They are as follows:

CONGREGATE LIVING FACILITIES

NC DHHS recommends that all facilities that serve as residential establishments for high risk persons should limit visitors and restrict all visitors who have respiratory illness or potential exposure to COVID-19. These establishments include nursing homes, independent and assisted living facilities, correctional facilities, and facilities that care for medically vulnerable children.

MASS GATHERING OR LARGE COMMUNITY EVENTS

NC DHHS recommends that event organizers:

  • Urge anyone who is sick to not attend.
  • Encourage those who are at high risk to not attend.
  • Adopt lenient refund policies for people who are high risk.
  • Find ways to give people more physical space to limit close contact as much as possible.
  • Encourage attendees to wash hands frequently.
  • Clean surfaces with standard cleaners.

ALL TRAVELERS

NC DHHS recommends that all travelers returning from countries and US states impacted by COVID-19 follow DHHS guidance on self-monitoring:

SCHOOLS

NC DHHS is NOT recommending pre-emptive closure of schools and childcare centers at this time.

The following recommendations pertain to persons and establishments in the TRIANGLE area.

WORKPLACE SETTINGS

NC DHHS recommends that employers and employees use teleworking technologies to the greatest extent possible. Additionally, employers should urge employees to stay home when they are sick and maximize flexibility in sick leave benefits and consider staggering start and end times to reduce large numbers of people coming together at the same time.

MASS GATHERINGS, COMMUNITY AND SOCIAL EVENTS

NC DHHS recommends that organizers of mass gathering events that primarily draw high-risk persons, including those that attract older adults, should consider cancelling or postponing these events.

Anyone with questions should call the state Helpline at 866-462-3821.


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