North Carolina was set to move to the next phase of coronavirus restrictions, but Governor Roy Cooper announced Wednesday he is extending Phase 3 executive order after recent COVID-19 data trends.
Under Phase 3, bars, theaters, and entertainment venues are allowed to open at reduced capacity. The order was set to expire on Friday, October 23, but now has been extended until at least Friday, November 13. Cooper says the state’s numbers are higher than what he and healthcare professionals want. The state reported more than 1,800 NEW cases over the past two weeks. And right now, there are over 1,200 people hospitalized with coronavirus in the state.
Statewide, there are over 250,000 COVID cases and more than 4,000 who have died of the virus. The state’s Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) Director Dr. Mandy Cohen says cases are on the rise in part because of new coronavirus clusters. She says when people gather at religious events or family functions they create clusters. A cluster is defined as five or more COVID cases in the same location.
Dr. Cohen emphasizes the need for people to continue practicing the safety guidelines if they plan to participate in such gatherings. Those guidelines include wearing a mask, meeting outside, allowing sufficient space outside, and keeping gatherings small.
Like many other states, North Carolina is seeing another surge of the virus spreading. Health officials think it’s linked to the cooler temperatures, more gatherings, and poor COVID safety protocol. To assist with the pandemic fatigue, NCDHHS has issued guidance for fall-related events to help minimize the risk for COVID-19 transmission.
Health officials also encourage people to download and use the notification app SlowCOVIDNC. It alerts users when they may have been exposed to someone who has tested positive for COVID.