Keep Those Masks On. COVID-19 Cases Surging in NC.

A doctor in protective gloves examines COVID-19 tests. (Image via Tang Ming Tung/Getty Images.)

By Sarah Ovaska

October 19, 2020

North Carolina, like elsewhere in the country, is seeing an uptick of COVID-19 cases as weariness from the pandemic’s restrictions set in.

COVID-19 cases are again surging in North Carolina, a sign that the dangerous and highly contagious disease is still active in the state.  

The state set a regrettable record last week, when more than 2,500 new cases were reported on two consecutive days. Hospital beds are also filling up with patients because of significant complications from the novel coronavirus. There were 1,142 people in hospitals Monday, an increase from where the state was in August and September.  

“North Carolinians must be even more vigilant in our effort to prevent the spread of this virus,” Gov. Roy Cooper said Thursday, when addressing the rising numbers at a press conference. “Complacency will cost lives and hurt our economy.”

Nearly 4,000 lives have already been lost to date in the state, with 3,939 deaths from COVID-19 as of Monday, according to the NC Department of Health and Human Services.

Among those who have recently succumbed to the disease: the new president of Raleigh’s St. Augustine University. Irving Pressley McPhail had arrived at St. Augustine’s this summer and was expected to be a transformative leader for the private historically black university, as WRAL reported. But he contracted COVID-19 several weeks ago before passing away Thursday.  

Attention Turning To NC 

The current surge of COVID-19 cases comes during a pivotal time in the state.

The state is in Phase Three of its staggered reopening plan, with movie theaters, outdoor amusement parks, and bars allowed to serve patrons at reduced capacity for the first time in months.

Early voting for the 2020 election is also underway in the key swing state, with people arriving at polling places to cast votes, in some cases waiting in long lines. And political campaigns are making their last-ditch efforts before the Nov. 3 election to sway voters at events with marked differences in how they approach the virus. 

READ MORE: Election HQ: Cardinal & Pine’s Live Blog on NC’s 2020 Election

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden held a drive-in rally outside Durham’s Riverside High School Sunday, where supporters stayed in their cars and honked their car horns while Biden addressed the crowd from afar, according to the News & Observer. 

“My grandfather would say, this guy’s gone around the bend if he thinks we’ve turned the corner,”  Biden said about the surge of COVID-19 cases in North Carolina and elsewhere, according to the N&O.

Meanwhile, his Republican opponent President Donald Trump has contracted COVID-19 himself but has consistently downplayed the prevalence and seriousness of COVID-19. At Trump’s campaign rallies, including those in North Carolina, the crowds don’t consistently wear masks and observe physical distance recommendations. Trump 

Trump will be back in the state Wednesday, at an event planned at the Gastonia Municipal Airport. That prompted the Gaston County Health Department to release a statement reiterating public health recommendations to wear masks, observe six feet of physical distance from others and refrain from gathering in large crowds. . 

Meanwhile colder weather on the horizon also  means more people may be moving indoors, where the disease can spread more easily, to spend time with family and friends. And school systems around the state that initially held off of in-person classes are also now moving to hybrid options and bringing some younger students into classrooms.

Among those reopening school buildings are the school systems for the state’s two largest metropolitan areas, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools and Wake County Public School System.

Elementary school students will head back to classrooms in the Raleigh area next week, with middle school and high-school students to follow in coming weeks.  And, in the Charlotte area, elementary school students will return to classroom two days a week beginning on Nov. 2 in the Charlotte area.

Cooper acknowledged people are tired of wearing masks and having to stay away from loved ones and friends, at his press conference last week. But he emphasized that the best way to get more children back into classrooms, and the economy functioning better is to keep the spread of the disease down.

“We cannot let weariness and frustration win out,” Cooper said. “We’ve brought our numbers down and we need to do it again.”


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