Gov. Cooper extends Phase 3 due to increasing COVID-19 trends


RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Gov. Roy Cooper said North Carolina’s Phase 3 of reopening has been extended by three weeks due to increasing numbers of COVID-19 across the state.

Phase 3 was set to expire on Friday.

“It’s critical that we take this time to focus on the basics – wear a mask, wash your hands, wait six feet apart from other people,” Cooper said. “These are the habits that helped lower our numbers over the summer, and they are still our best tools.”

North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Secretary, Dr. Mandy Cohen pointed to people letting thier guard down during social, family and religious gatherings as a reason for the recent increase in cases.

“Ignoring the virus does not make it go away. Just the opposite. The past two weeks we’ve seen an increase in COVID19 clusters in social gatherings. Things like informal get togethers, family gatherings and parties. We’ve also seen an increase in clusters in religious gatherings,” Cohen said.

NCDHHS released new guidelines for private gatherings, such as encouraging people to hold events outdoors where it’s easier to spread out.

Cohen said everyone should continue wearing a mask, social distancing and practice frequent hand washing, even with close friends or family.

“We often think ‘Oh, I’m with my family or some really close friends.’ You need to be wearing your mask anytime you’re with anyone outside of who you live within your household, or outside your home,” said Cohen.

Cooper’s comments come as North Carolina now has more than 250,00 lab-confirmed cases of the disease and 4,000 deaths.

June 8 — 1,000th death reported
Aug. 4 — 2,000th death reported
Sept. 11 — 3,000th death reported
Oct. 21 — 4,000th death reported

“Like states across the country, our numbers continue to be higher than we want,” the governor said. “We hope that greater enforcement, strong community leadership and more people doing the right things can lower these numbers.”

Hospitalizations also reached numbers the state has not reported since late July.

The 1,219 patients in hospitals is the highest single-day total since July 28 (1,236).

Earlier Wednesday, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services and the North Carolina Department of Public Safety sent a letter to local leaders asking them to help slow the spread of the virus.

The letter was sent to county and municipal leaders in 36 counties that met the following metrics:

  • The county has had 300 or more new cases in the last 14 days and has been identified by the White House Task Force as a county of concern.
  • The rate of cases is greater than 50 cases per 10,000 people.
  • The county is one of the three most populous in the state.

The letter also detailed actions to consider that have less severe penalties for violating COVID-19 executive orders than what is available through the state-level emergency powers.

The penalty for violating the state-level executive order is limited to criminal citations, which could result in imprisonment.

City and county governments can create ordinances that carry more flexible consequences such as civil fines.

Examples of local actions include:

  • Adopting an ordinance that imposes a civil penalty for violating its provisions.
  • Issuing a local Emergency Proclamation setting higher standards to address the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Supporting the local health director to issue and enforce an Imminent Hazard Abatement Order against entities whose actions, including failure to comply with the governor’s executive order, present an imminent hazard to your community. 

Letters were sent to leaders in the following counties:

  • Alamance
  • Avery
  • Burke
  • Caldwell
  • Caswell
  • Catawba
  • Chowan
  • Cleveland
  • Craven
  • Cumberland
  • Davidson
  • Duplin
  • Edgecombe
  • Gaston
  • Graham
  • Greene
  • Guilford
  • Hoke
  • Hyde
  • Johnston
  • Lincoln
  • Mecklenburg
  • Moore
  • Nash
  • New Hanover
  • Onslow
  • Pitt
  • Randolph
  • Robeson
  • Rockingham
  • Rowan
  • Scotland
  • Union
  • Wake
  • Watauga
  • Wayne

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