Why NC’s Latest COVID-19 Spike May Delay Phase Three

Gov. Roy Cooper speaking in Raleigh in 2020. Cooper issued an executive order in 2018 with a plan for a drastic reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. (Image via NC DPS pool photographer)

By patmoran

June 16, 2020

Reduced social distancing contributed to rise, state officials say.

In the wake of North Carolina’s highest number of single-day cases since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the state warns it may delay its reopening timetable, Charlotte’s WJZY-TV reported. 

The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services reported an additional 1,443 cases of the virus on Sunday. And on Monday, as Cardinal & Pine reported, Gov. Roy Cooper warned that the state may be considering an order making masks mandatory in public space. 

“The way the numbers look right now, I would be surprised if we moved into Phase Three,” Mecklenburg County Public Health Director Gibbie Harris said Sunday. Mecklenburg is one of several counties, including Duplin and Durham counties, that Cooper cited as points of concern in Monday’s press briefing. 

RELATED: Gov. Cooper Says a Mask Rule Is ‘Absolutely in Discussion’ As COVID Cases Spike

The Charlotte area could see a surge in coronavirus cases in August and September, Harris continued, with social distancing levels reverting back to pre-pandemic levels, The Charlotte Observer reported.

When asked if Phase Three, currently planned for the end of June, might be pushed back, Cooper said that everything, including opening the state on time, is still in play.

Phase Three would increase capacity at restaurants, bars, churches and entertainment venues, and further boost the number of people allowed at gatherings.

State and county health officials have reported more than 45,000 positive cases of coronavirus and 1,118 deaths in North Carolina, with 6,367 cases and 123 related deaths in Mecklenburg County.

The rise in cases comes after North Carolina reported its largest single-day spike in late May, one day after the start of Phase Two.

On Thursday, Secretary of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Mandy Cohen warned that the state could even roll back the easing of restrictions begun with Phase Two.

“If we need to go back to stay-at-home [orders], we will,” Cohen told NPR’s Morning Edition

While Cooper has said the high number of new cases is not just related to more testing, Harris has warned that people backing away from social distancing, as well as safety measures like wearing masks and avoiding large gatherings, has contributed to the surge.

Meanwhile, The Raleigh News & Observer reported on crowds of people without face masks congregating at bars and restaurants in the city’s Glenwood South neighborhood over the weekend.

When WRAL-TV posted a video of the crowds, Raleigh Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin responded, “I have alerted Glenwood South businesses this will not be tolerated.”


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