Gov. Cooper declares state of emergency over COVID-19 outbreak

Coronavirus

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Gov. Roy Cooper has declared a state of emergency over the COVID-19 outbreak in North Carolina.

Related: What does ‘state of emergency’ mean for North Carolinians?

“I know people are worried about this virus and I want to assure you that the state of North Carolina and your public health directors and emergency responders are working hard,” Cooper said.

As of Tuesday morning, there are seven presumptive cases of coronavirus in North Carolina. The CDC lab will confirm if the patients are positive for COVID-19.

Officials said a total of 44 people have been tested at the state lab and another 25 are in the queue. Cooper said he anticipates there being “many more” positive cases.

“Right now, we have supplies to test 300 more people,” Cooper said.

Here’s what the governor’s emergency declaration does:

  • Waives certain restrictions on vehicles transporting supplies, so they can get where they need to go more quickly
  • Triggers the state’s price gouging law to go into effect
  • Gives managers in charge of emergency response and health departments more budget flexibility
  • Encourages private labs and universities to expand COVID-19 testing
  • Directs NCDHHS and the NC Department of Insurance to work with health insurers “to reduce cost-sharing (including, but not limited to, co-pays, deductibles, or coinsurance) to zero for all medically necessary screening and testing for COVID-19

To see the full emergency declaration, click here.

The state has reported seven positive cases of COVID-19. Six of those are in Wake County, one in Chatham County. All are in isolation in their homes, according to Chris Kippes, Wake County Public Health Division director. 

NCDHHS Sec. Mandy Cohen said no one who has tested positive in North Carolina has required care in a hospital.

“Anyone can carry the virus to loved ones or friends who can become ill,” Cooper said.

The governor urged those in high-risk groups to avoid mass travel and large gatherings. He also urged event organizers to be lenient with refund policies.

The CDC lists “older adults” and those with underlying conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and/or lung disease as high risk.

NCDHHS is recommending that facilities such as assisted-living centers, retirement homes, prisons and jails restrict visitors.

In the Triangle region specifically, state leaders are encouraging employers to allow people to work remotely as much as possible. They are also encouraging people organizing events that would typically draw high-risk people to cancel or postpone them.

The recommendations extend through the end of the month but could continue beyond that depending on the circumstances at that time, state leaders say.

The CDC reports there are more than 640 COVID-19 cases across the U.S.:

  • Total cases: 647
  • Total deaths: 25
  • States reporting cases: 36 (includes District of Columbia)

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services announced the five new cases late Monday.

All traveled to Boston in late February to attend a conference for Biogen. There have been several COVID-19 cases from around the country tied to the conference, the NCDHHS said.

All five people are being isolated in their homes.

Earlier on Monday, health officials in Indiana said a person who tested positive for COVID-19 on March 8 was in Wake and Durham counties between March 2-6. That person was symptomatic while in North Carolina.

That person on March 1 flew from Indiana to Raleigh-Durham International Airport. Then, on March 2, the patient began to show signs of upper respiratory symptoms while working at Biogen in Research Triangle Park. The patient then drove back to Indiana on March 6.

Before traveling to North Carolina, the patient attended a corporate conference in Boston during the last week of February. More than two dozen other conference attendees have also tested presumptive positive for COVID-19.

“We anticipate more positive test results from this Boston conference,” Cooper said.

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The outbreak is leading to events all over the country being postponed or canceled.

Pearl Jam announced late Monday that their North American tour is being postponed. It was slated to start March 18 in Toronto.

Professional sports leagues, including MLB, NBA, NHL and MLS, announced team clubhouses and locker rooms will temporarily be closed to the media and non-essential personnel, effective Tuesday.

Hollywood is also changing plans over the virus.

“Peter Rabbit 2” had been set to open in the U.S. on April 3. Instead, Sony said the sequel to 2018’s “Peter Rabbit” will launch on Aug. 7. 

Last week, the release of the James Bond film “No Time to Die” was postponed from early April to November.

The Wake County Department of Health said the risk of contracting COVID-19 remains low but the following steps can be performed to protect yourself from COVID-19 and any other flu-like illness:

  • Wash your hands.
  • Don’t touch your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Stay away from sick people.
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces using regular household cleaning spray or wipes.
  • Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue and throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Stay home if you’re sick and don’t send sick children to school or childcare.

Taking the proper precautions can potentially mitigate the impact of the virus, Dr. Many Cohen, Secretary of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, said.

“This is a critical moment in the growing outbreak of COVID-19 here in North Carolina when such measures can potentially impact the spread of the disease,” she said.

In addition to steps like washing your hands and not touching your face, Cohen and Cooper both said those in high-risk populations should take additional measures.

“People at high risk, above age 65 or with underlying health conditions, should avoid large groups of people as much as possible,” said Cohen. “Facilities housing vulnerable populations should limit visitors.”

Cohen also had recommendations for those specifically in the Triangle.

“Employers and employees in the Triangle should use teleworking technologies to the greatest extent possible,” she said. “Organizers of mass gatherings for events here in the Triangle that primarily target or draw high-risk persons should consider canceling or postponing events.”

The Raleigh City Council is expected to address April’s Dreamville Festival scheduled to take place at Dorothea Dix Park. Last year’s festival drew more than 40,000 people. Although another festival, SXSW in Austin, Texas, was canceled, no decision has been made on Dreamville. That decision could come on Tuesday afternoon.

Cohen said one of her biggest concerns right now is misinformation.

“I’m worried about the misinformation being shared across social media,” she said. “It is harmful.”

Cohen and Cooper recommended that people visit the state’s coronavirus website for the latest information for North Carolina residents. You can also visit the CDC’s coronavirus page for more information.

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