Citing the continued rise in COVID-19 cases statewide, Gov. Roy Cooper announced today that he is extending the modified stay at home order at least until Jan. 31.
While Columbus had seen an improvement in infections, it jumped back into the red, or critical, category this week. The county had been downgraded to significant on Dec. 22. Since that time, the county has seen multiple consecutive days with an average of 49 new cases per day, according to the state’s COVID-19 dashboard.
Cohen and Sec. of Health and Human Services Mandy Cohen stopped just short of ordering North Carolinians to go on lockdown.
Cohen issued a “Secretarial Directive” urging North Carolinians not to leave home except for work, school, necessities or for health care.
“We are in a very dangerous position. North Carolinians need to take immediate actions to save lives, slow the spread of the virus, and protect hospital capacity so that medical care is available to anyone who may need it, whether for COVID-19 or for any other reason,” said Cohen.
The directive also calls for persons over 65 or with compromised immune systems to use delivery services or curbside pickups for groceries and other shopping.
“Above all, wear a mask any time you leave home,” Cohen said. “Avoid any indoor places where there are people who are not wearing a mask. Wait six feet apart.”
Earlier this week, Cohen said that all people should assume they have COVID-19, and are possibly contagious.
“If you have been anywhere where people are not wearing a mask, you should get tested and quarantine if necessary,” Cohen said.
“We have turned the page on a new year – one that we’re hoping will bring better times. But as we know, the virus didn’t disappear at midnight on December 31,” Governor Cooper said. “In fact, in North Carolina, we have seen some of our highest case counts, percent positives, hospitalizations and ICU bed usage numbers in the past few days. No matter where you live, work, worship or play, COVID-19 remains a deadly threat, and we must treat it that way.”
Both Cohen and Cooper touted the growing availability of vaccines, and urged everyone to get vaccinated as soon as possible. The state is entering Phase 1B of the vaccination schedule, and persons over 65 can get a vaccination beginning Monday in Columbus County.
“We know some people have concerns about being vaccinated,” Cohen said. “They must be heard, but the vaccines are safe. They have been rigorously tested.”
Cohen and Cooper both said early on in the pandemic that they would not be vaccinated until sufficient quantities were available for those deemed most susceptible.
The modified stay at home order prohibits unnecessary travel between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m., and further reduces the number of people allowed at gatherings.