Raleigh, N.C. — Gov. Roy Cooper and Secretary of Health and Human Services Dr. Mandy Cohen updated the state’s coronavirus response Tuesday, a day where hospitalizations for and reported new cases of the virus were near record highs.
The state’s rolling, seven-day average of cases is the highest it has been – 2,438 – higher than a peak in mid-July. On Tuesday, North Carolina reported 2,582 new cases and 45 more deaths. To date, more than 4,600 people have died of COVID-19 in the state, and almost 300,000 people have tested positive for it.
Hospitalizations, at 1,230 on Tuesday, are also the highest they’ve been since the pandemic began. For a month, the daily number of hospitalizations has been higher than 1,000 statewide, a higher and longer peak than in early August.
“The trend of new cases is up considerably in the last month, and we are experiencing a new peak,” Cohen said. “Bottom line: We are on shaky ground.”
North Carolina, however, has not seen the kind of spikes that other states in the Southeast have.
“The numbers remain troublingly high,” Cooper said. “We need to focus on bringing our numbers down.”
The steady increase in both cases and hospitalizations roughly aligns with Cooper’s most recent loosening of restrictions on businesses and gatherings. On Sept. 30, the governor issued an executive order allowing amusement parks, sports and music venues, bars with outdoor seating and fitness facilities like gyms to reopen at limited capacity.
Since the beginning of October, public schools have also begun to reopen, most of them rotating students between in-person and remote learning.
Health experts have said that the real threat is not large crowds, but smaller, intimate gatherings.
Cooper said he took that into consideration in reducing the limit on indoor gatherings to 10 people.
“The safest thing we can do for our loved ones is to limit travel and to limit getting together, especially indoors,” Cohen said. “If you do decide to host a holiday gathering, we can’t eliminate risk, but we can minimize it.”
Cohen suggested clustering family members from the same household at the same table, cleaning and disinfecting common surfaces and wearing a mask at all times except for when eating. She added that anyone considering traveling for the holidays should get a coronavirus screening test beforehand.