RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN/WJZY) – Gov. Roy Cooper said Thursday that North Carolina is entering the next phase of its COVID-19 response with an emphasis on “individual responsibility” as cases decline. 

“In the last two years, we wrote a history of hardship and resilience, challenges and victories, setbacks and successes,” the governor said. “We enter the next phase of individual responsibility, preparedness and prosperity. It’s time to chart a new course. The virus will still be with us, but won’t disrupt us.” 

State health leaders said they will shift the focus of their pandemic response to four principles: empowering individuals, maintaining health system capacity, collaborating with local partners and prioritizing equity. 

Cooper commended the efforts North Carolina made throughout the pandemic. 

“We made the right choice. We got our children back to school. We kept our economy going. We saved lives. Now, we turn the page on the pandemic knowing that we now have the tools for people and businesses to make the right choice for themselves,” he said. 

Health leaders stressed the importance of being prepared for future surges. 

NCDHHS Secretary Kody Kinsley said the state will also shift away from certain measured COVID-19 metrics, listing seven methods that will be the main focus: 

  • Wastewater surveillance 
  • COVID-like illness 
  • Hospital Admissions 
  • Case Trends 
  • Booster rates 
  • Prevalence of Variance 
  • CDC Community Level Measure 

Kinsley said that the North Carolina coronavirus dashboard will eventually be moving to weekly updates with the above seven metrics as cases decline. 

“Today, we can look forward with the belief that the worst is behind us. As we look ahead, it’s important to take stock of how far we’ve come,” said Cooper. 

Last week, 70 Republican lawmakers signed a letter calling on Cooper to end the COVID State of Emergency that was put in place on March 10, 2020. 

Cooper said that emergency declaration will remain in effect, adding that part of the order helps to assure that there are enough people to give out COVID-19 vaccines. 

The State of Emergency also allows the state to ask for federal help and access state emergency and disaster relief funds. 

“It’s a legal tool that we are using to provide the flexibility that’s needed,” Cooper said. “And, when the legislature passes a law to give that flexibility that’s needed, then we’ll do away with it.” 

His administration sent a letter to legislators Mar. 10 asking for a series of changes to state law, including: giving the state health director a standing order for testing, vaccination and treatment; giving the Division of Health Service Regulation the ability to waive state administrative rules; and giving “additional time for asbestos management, lead abatement and lead renovation professionals to come back into compliance with refresher training requirements.” 

The Cooper administration sent the letter the same day the legislature adjourned its long session, 14 months after it began. 

Lawmakers are not expected to return to Raleigh for votes until May 18.  

In a statement, Republican Senate leader Phil Berger said, “Gov. Cooper has hijacked the Emergency Management Act to rewrite state laws in order to advance his political agenda and bypass the legislative process. Instead of issuing ultimatums, Gov. Cooper should rescind his emergency declaration.” 

Even as case numbers in the United States have declined dramatically in recent weeks, WHO scientists are tracking a hybrid variant of COVID-19 that has been dubbed “deltacron.” 

Researchers said they believe the variant combines genes from both delta and omicron. 

Countries in Europe and Asia are also seeing a new surge in cases primarily fueled by the omicron subvariant BA.2. 

“We believe it’s about 30 percent more transmissible than omicron itself. But, the immunity from omicron and from vaccines remains very protective against the most important thing, which is severe disease, ending up in the hospitals,” said Sec. Kinsley. 

He also urged Congress to approve additional federal funding for COVID-19 response in an effort to ensure there’s adequate testing resources and treatments available in the event there is another surge in cases in the U.S. 

“I’m most concerned about our supply of testing in the private markets and the unique ability of the federal government to maintain those levels of supply by pushing and propping up that market,” he said.