If coronavirus trends continue to move in the wrong direction, state officials say they may implement tighter restrictions or new safety measures.
Many people feared that Governor Roy Cooper would announce stricter requirements on gatherings and businesses at his Tuesday afternoon press conference. Instead, the governor warned that now’s the time to act, so that those days don’t come.
To help with that, state officials introduced a new tool to show viral hotspots throughout the state.
The new color-coded county alert system shows three tiers: yellow (significant community spread), orange (substantial community spread), and red (critical community spread). Right now, Mecklenburg is at yellow.
Rural areas in the red: Since September, nearly twice as many new Covid 19 cases have been reported in rural counties compared with urban or suburban ones, according to a new study from the NC Department of Health and Human Services.
The new map shows that the counties in red are: Alexander, Avery, Columbus, Davie, Gaston, Hoke, Mitchell, Sampson, Wilkes, and Wilson.
A community approach first: Cooper said he hopes the tool will prompt local officials to work with their communities to enforce already-in-place restrictions on things like limits on indoor dining and enforcement of mask-wearing. “We believe that’s going to work better right now to try to curb the numbers than simply adding another layer,” he said.
But he cautioned that if the metrics keep moving in the wrong direction, “the state could impose additional orders, either at a local or statewide level. As numbers worsen, we need to treat this virus like the deadly threat it still is.”
Last week, the state lowered the indoor mass gathering limit to 10, down from 25.
Cooper’s warning comes amid worsening coronavirus trends in the county, state, and nation.
For several days now, North Carolina has reported at least 3,000 new daily coronavirus cases. Statewide, more than 1,500 Covid patients are in the hospital. In Mecklenburg County, an average of 172 people were hospitalized in the past week.
Nationwide, local officials are responding to the sharp increases.
In Chicago, Mayor Lori Lightfoot issued a stay-at-home advisory and put a 10-person limit on social gatherings. Leaders in Philadelphia banned indoor dining at restaurants, and limited outdoor tables to parties of four from the same household. In Iowa, Governor Kim Reynolds, formerly a critic of pandemic restrictions, issued a statewide mask mandate.
What’s causing the increases? Experts the WSJ interviewed point to a number of factors driving up the numbers. For one, people are experiencing “pandemic fatigue,” meaning they’re flat-out sick of social distancing and wearing masks. Additionally, temperatures are dropping, and people are gathering indoors more often. That’s especially true in the Midwest, which is seeing massive spikes.
Cooper described North Carolina’s cases as “increasing,” whereas elsewhere in the country, they’re “surging.”
Still, the situation here in Charlotte isn’t as bad as it other places, even in counties just outside the city.
Holiday advice: NCDHHS Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen cautioned that people shouldn’t let their guards down heading into the holiday season. “It’s places where people gather without masks that we’re really seeing viral spread,” such as informal social gatherings and in-person religious services, she said.
Mecklenburg County released these tips on how you can still celebrate Thanksgiving safely:
- Avoid travel and gatherings with anyone outside your household.
- Host a virtual Thanksgiving with loved ones.
- Watch parades, sports, and movies on TV at home.
- Shop for groceries online instead of at the store.
- If you must travel and gather with people outside your household, get tested first.
Use this online tool to find a testing site near you.
(Featured photo courtesy Atrium Health)