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In First Post-Election Briefing, State Officials Report 2nd-Highest Rate Of New COVID Cases

Credit File Photo, Courtesy Governor Roy Cooper Twitter

North Carolina’s coronavirus cases continue to climb, with the state hitting its second-highest new case count on Thursday.

In the first state COVID briefing since Election Day, state Health Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen and newly reelected Gov. Roy Cooper expressed concerns about the trajectory of cases, especially ahead of the holiday season when residents traditionally gather indoors. 

+ Don't attend if you feel sick or have COVID-19

+ Smaller gatherings are better, outdoors is best

+ Keep tables 6 ft apart and grouped by household— WUNC (@wunc) November 5, 2020

Cohen provided guidelines for how to gather safely.

“Smaller is better, and outdoors is better than indoors,” said Cohen.

She suggests that if North Carolinians do hold small holiday events, people seated together should also be part of the same household. Masks should be worn whenever possible and commonly touched surfaces should be disinfected regularly. 

On Thursday, the state reported 2,859 new cases and 285,661 total cases. More than 1,100 people are currently hospitalized and 4,548 people have died in North Carolina since the beginning of the pandemic.

Cohen reported that visits to the emergency room are decreasing overall, but hospitalization rates have, for the most part, stabilized. Still, the case rate continues to trend upward. She said a flu shot is just one way to help reduce the burden on hospitals that are traditionally even more stretched during the winter months. 

Currently, the average rate of tests in the state that are turning out positive is just under 7%. Cohen emphasized that number is above the target rate of 5% positive. 

In a new recommendation, Cohen suggested individuals get COVID screening tests ahead of gathering with family and friends. She said to keep in mind that rapid tests have less consistent results and a COVID test only gives you a snapshot of whether you test positive in that particular moment.

State Officials Reflect On Grim National COVID Milestone

During the Thursday press conference, Cooper took a step back to reflect on the COVID numbers across the country following the election.

“This week our number hit a grim benchmark of 100,000 cases in one day,” he said referring to national cases.

He acknowledged that people are fatigued with measures and said he hoped with Election Day having passed, Americans can move beyond the politicization of the virus to continue “forward with science and facts.”

The governor was asked repeatedly by reporters whether he would take a step back in the state reopening plan and consider reissuing more stringent lockdown measures. The governor did not issue a direct response, instead highlighting that North Carolina has not seen a “huge spike” in case numbers and that hospitals are not currently overloaded. Cooper did say he would release more information next week about whether he would adjust restrictions.

When asked by reporters about his hopes for how the presidential election might influence COVID tactics, Cooper said he wanted to see a federal coordinated strategy that “takes this seriously.” 

In his reelection bid, Cooper had banked on the support of voters who approved of his handling of the coronavirus, while Forest had aimed to appeal to business owners and K-12 public school parents dissatisfied with the state’s slow reopening. Cooper focused his campaign almost entirely on COVID-19 since the spring. 

Cohen said that some COVID cases had been tied to political rallies in the lead-up to the election. 

Copyright 2020 North Carolina Public Radio

Laura Pellicer is a producer with The State of Things (hyperlink), a show that explores North Carolina through conversation. Laura was born and raised in Montreal, Quebec, a city she considers arrestingly beautiful, if not a little dysfunctional. She worked as a researcher for CBC Montreal and also contributed to their programming as an investigative journalist, social media reporter, and special projects planner. Her work has been nominated for two Canadian RTDNA Awards. Laura loves looking into how cities work, pursuing stories about indigenous rights, and finding fresh voices to share with listeners. Laura is enamored with her new home in North Carolina—notably the lush forests, and the waves where she plans on moonlighting as a mediocre surfer.