Gov. Cooper: NC will remain in Phase 3, indoor gathering limit lowered to 10
Cooper made announcement as the state sees some of its highest coronavirus numbers since the pandemic began.
With coronavirus cases surging across North Carolina, Gov. Roy Cooper on Nov. 10 announced the state will remain paused in Phase 3 of its reopening plan for at least three more we. He also announced the limit on indoor gatherings will be lowered from 25 to 10 people.
"We've come too far to lose our focus now," he said, eight months after COVID-19 first shut down much of the state.
The Phase 3 order on reopening businesses and public spaces had been scheduled to expire Friday. Cooper enacted Phase 3 in early October, after relaxing past reopening restrictions. Some of the remaining restrictions in place to deter the spread of the virus include:
- Bars are prohibited from allowing patrons inside, but a limited number may be served outside.
- Other indoor gathering spaces can have a maximum of 10 people. Outdoor spaces are limited to 50 people. Arenas with more than 10,000 seats may seat up to 7% of their capacity.
- Alcoholic sales for immediate consumption are banned from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m.
- People are required to wear face coverings or masks when out in public and in the presence of non-household members.
Cooper also announced that starting Nov. 12, full-service restaurants may apply to the North Carolina Department of Commerce for up to $20,000 in rent or mortgage interest relief.
The Nov. 10 press conference came as the state sees some of its highest coronavirus numbers since the pandemic began early this year.
According to statistics from the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services:
- The state reported 2,582 new COVID-19 cases Nov. 10, the day after reporting its largest seven-day rolling average of new cases.
- On Nov. 9, the state reported 1,230 hospitalizations, its highest level in at least a month.
- The percentage of tests that are positive, 7.5% on Nov. 8, is also higher than the average rate in October and November.
At the Nov. 10 press conference, Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen said the state would like the percent of positive tests at 5% or below. She added that while hospitals still have capacity, the hospitalization rate is high.
Both Cohen and Cooper struck an optimistic tone when discussing the latest developments for a COVID-19 vaccine that's proven 90% effective in initial data.
"There is light at the end of the tunnel," Cooper said.
Yet as the weather cools, health experts warn case numbers will continue to rise, as the virus lingers longer in less humid air and people spend more time indoors. And after eight months of quarantines, postponed plans, and social distancing with masks, some worn down residents have relaxed their approach to the virus, in a practice called “COVID fatigue”.
“People are really tired of being apart from each other,” said Patrick Barron, program director at the school of health sciences at Western Carolina University. “And unfortunately, that fatigue is timed where there aren’t as many opportunities to commune safely.”
With about two weeks until Thanksgiving, Cohen voiced concerns that holiday gatherings could fuel further spread of the virus. She discouraged people from meeting in large groups, especially indoors, and recommended sitting only near people within the same household if families choose to gather at all.
She added that people should consider getting tested for COVID-19 at least three to four days before traveling or gathering with friends and family this Thanksgiving.
Senior reporter Paul Woolverton can be reached at pwoolverton@Gannett.com.
Brian Gordon is a statewide reporter with the USA Today Network in North Carolina. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @briansamuel92.