President Trump may be suggesting some states could reopen May 1, but North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper wouldn’t commit to such a speedy timetable on Wednesday.
“I want to do that as quickly as possible,” Cooper said. “But we want to do that the right way based on science, the data and facts.”
Cooper addressed reporters with the number of COVID-19 cases continuing to grow in North Carolina. State officials said Wednesday that there are 5,123 confirmed cases in the state. And the death toll grew to 117, with 431 currently hospitalized. The virus has spread into 93 of NC’s 100 counties.
Still, state officials continued to emphasize that social distancing has slowed the highly contagious virus.
Cooper is under pressure from some to lift restrictions, including a stay-at-home order that is set to expire at the end of April. However, state researchers told officials last week that their models indicate infections could triple if all restrictions are lifted at the end of April. The health care system is also twice as likely to be overwhelmed, researchers said.
The governor said his office will review whether their restrictions need to be extended when the current orders expire. However, Cooper said that he expects NC will return to normal operations “incrementally,” depending on the state’s ability to trace coronavirus patients.
Both Cooper and NC Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen said tracing will be key in the coming days, with healthcare leaders hoping to track the virus’ spread. Cohen said the state will ramp up staffing and enlist a digital tracing service to help.
Asked if he would be joining any planning coalitions with neighboring governors, as some states have done, Cooper did not commit to anything, although he indicated that he’d discussed coronavirus strategy with governors from across the country Wednesday. He said their discussion included best ways to reopen their economies.
“This virus doesn’t respect states’ lines, that’s for sure,” Cooper added.
Meanwhile, Cohen said that the state has made progress in addressing testing shortfalls in recent weeks, although she said medical professionals are still in need of protective equipment like gowns, masks and gloves.
“We’re not out of the woods yet,” Cohen said.
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