As NC extends Phase 3 of coronavirus protocol, Mandy Cohen pleads for patience, says she’s yet to meet a new niece.
North Carolina passed two dismal milestones Wednesday, with more than 4,000 people in the state now dead from COVID-19 complications and more than a quarter-million infections in the state.
The state’s death toll, officially now at 4,032, is certain to climb given the state, like much of the country, is seeing a surge in cases as weather cools and the people grow weary of having to stay away from friends and family.
Meanwhile, 250,592 people in the state have contracted the disease since March 1, according to data released by the NC Department of Health and Human Services.
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Hospital beds are also starting to fill up, with 1,219 people sick enough from the highly contagious disease to require around-the-clock care. It’s the second-highest number of hospitalizations since the start of the crisis. And while the state’s hospitals still have capacity to treat more, some of the state’s smaller hospitals are beginning to struggle to meet the need, said NC Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen.
In light of that, NC Gov. Roy Cooper plans on keeping the state in Phase Three for the next three weeks when it comes to COVID-19 restrictions, which caps the amount of people that can gather inside or outside but allows gyms, entertainment venues and restaurants to operate at reduced capacity.
People are also required to wear masks when out in public, and Cooper called on law enforcement groups to more strongly enforce public health measures, whether that involves informal discussions with those not wearing masks or filing trespassing charges if someone refuses to leave a business for not wearing a mask.
“Wearing a mask is an easy way to protect our communities and to look out for each other,” Cooper said. “Confronting the virus head on and doing our part as individuals is good for our health and it’s good for our economy.”
But both he and Cohen acknowledged that people across the state are tired of having to stay away from loved ones. They pleaded with the public to stay masked and keep distance from others to slow the spread of COVID-19.
“Look, this has been a really hard year, I understand how much everyone wants to be with family and friends without having to worry about a virus,” Cohen said. “Ignoring the virus does not make it go away, just the opposite.”
She shared that, in her family, her parents haven’t been able to visit or play with her daughters since the start of the pandemic, nor has Cohen been able to meet a new baby niece.
The state also launched a $117 million Housing Opportunity and Prevention of Evictions (HOPE) Fund to aid people struggling to pay their rent or utility payments. Cooper said more than 12,000 people have already gotten help in just the first week, but that more help will be needed from the federal government.
Those in need of help paying rent or utility bills can call 2-1-1, the state hotline to connect people in need with service providers, or go to https://nc211.org/hope.
“We know the needs will surpass the amount we have,” Cooper said. “We need more support from Washington, and we need it soon.”
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