Mandy Cohen talks Phase 2 of reopening, hair salons, and a recent uptick in hospitalizations in Tuesday’s media briefing.
The coronavirus is now in all 100 North Carolina counties.
Mandy Cohen, secretary of the NC Department of Health and Human Services, confirmed Tuesday afternoon that the dangerous virus now has one confirmed case in Avery County, a western NC mountain county that was the last holdout.
Cohen addressed reporters while the state awaits word on whether officials in Gov. Roy Cooper’s administration will move NC into Phase 2 of easing social distancing orders.
State leaders are getting conflicting guidance. Some Republicans have been openly critical of the governor’s office because they believe the state should move faster. But public health experts have warned of the danger of opening too soon.
In addition, state officials reported a spike in new COVID-19 cases in the last week, although it coincides with a rise in testing too. During that time, the percentage of total tests that came back positive was relatively level at about 7%.
Cohen said metrics like that will guide state officials when they make their decision on Phase 2 in the coming days.
“They are not perfect (numbers), but they are largely stable,” she said.
Phase 2 will give restaurants and hair salons leeway to reopen with safeguards in place. Some salon owners were reportedly considering a lawsuit in the meantime.
As of Tuesday morning, the state has 19,700 confirmed coronavirus cases. The virus has killed 691 in NC. Hospitalizations ticked upward in recent days, rising from 475 a week ago to 585 Tuesday.
But Cohen said the state’s hospitals still have the capacity to meet the new cases. On Tuesday, DHHS — which is receiving reports from 92% of hospitals statewide — said about 30% of inpatient beds, and 22% of intensive care unit beds, were still available. DHHS also reported that about 21% of the state’s ventilators were in use by a patient.
“Yes, we are watching (hospitalizations) very closely,” Cohen said. “I want to see what tomorrow and what the rest of the week brings us, but when I look overall, we’ve largely been stable.”
Indeed, hospitalizations have been in or around 500 in recent weeks.
Cohen added that hospitalizations could also be a “lagging indicator,” meaning it is flagging a spike that happened days ago.
With officials expecting a midweek decision on Phase 2, check back with Cardinal & Pine for updates.
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