By Mark Jurkowitz | Outer Banks Voice on July 29, 2021
Declaring that the state’s COVID “trends have turned sharply in the wrong direction,” Governor Roy Cooper attributed the problem at a July 29 briefing to “unvaccinated people [who] are driving this resurgence and getting themselves and others sick.”
When asked by a reporter whether he would characterize a decision not to get vaccinated against COVID-19 as “irresponsible,” the governor barely paused before answering, “yes.” And in exhorting more people get their shots in a state where 57% of all adults are fully vaccinated, Cooper declared that the trends are “discouraging…Many vaccinated people are frustrated and mad. They’ve done their part.”
The briefing came on a day when the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) reported 3,268 new COVID cases, the highest level of single-day cases since Feb. 25. And the governor announced some new measures and guidelines to attempt to combat the rapid surge of cases.
At the press conference, Cooper announced that the state is now “encouraging everyone to follow the CDC guidelines that just came out.” Those guidelines, issued on July 27, recommend that all school staff and K-12 students wear face coverings regardless of vaccination status. The guidelines also said that everyone, regardless of vaccination status, should wear face coverings in indoor spaces in communities with substantial or high levels of COVID transmission.
NCDHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen noted that about 80% of North Carolina counties fall into that transmission category. That group includes Dare County where cases have skyrocketed in recent days.
In addition, the governor announced that state government would begin verifying the vaccination status of its workers with non-vaccinated employees required to wear a mask and be tested at least once a week. At the same time, NCDHHS said it was encouraging private sector businesses to, at a minimum, verify vaccination status for their workers as well.
In her remarks, Cohen discussed updated guidance for unvaccinated individuals, noting that they should wear a mask indoors, social distance six feet apart, wash hands frequently, avoid gathering with unvaccinated people who they don’t live with and avoid travel.
Cohen also spent some time discussing the worrisome characteristics of the now dominant Delta variant that is driving the increase in cases.
“The COVID virus is now much, much, much more contagious that it was earlier,” she said. To illustrate that point, she said that with earlier forms of the virus, an infected person was capable of spreading it to two or three people. With the Delta variant, that one person can now infect a half dozen others.
The new COVID surge and the shifts in rules and procedures to combat it come at a time when school districts all over the state are wrestling with decisions about how to open their buildings for classes next month.
On July 28, the Currituck County School Board voted to make mask wearing optional in that county’s schools, although they are required for traveling on school buses. The Dare County Board of Education will meet to tackle the issue on Aug. 5.