With COVID-19 cases spiking after the Thanksgiving holiday, Gov. Roy Cooper announced a new round of coronavirus restrictions Tuesday, including a nightly curfew. (Image via NC DPS) Roy Cooper
With COVID-19 cases spiking after the Thanksgiving holiday, Gov. Roy Cooper announced a new round of coronavirus restrictions Tuesday, including a nightly curfew. (Image via NC DPS)

Amid alarming rise in new coronavirus cases and hospitalizations, NC Gov. Roy Cooper orders new restrictions, including a nightly curfew.

Stay. At. Home.

That’s what every North Carolinians needs to do right now to combat a deadly surge in COVID-19 cases, Gov. Roy Cooper said Tuesday.

“The virus is upon us with a rapid viciousness like we haven’t seen before,” Cooper said at a news conference. “Even though we’re all frustrated and weary of the fight, it’s more important than ever to take this virus seriously.”

Cooper enacted what amounts to a nightly curfew for the state, calling for people to be at their homes between 10 pm and 5 am. His order will be in effect until Jan. 8. Alcohol sales will also stop at 9 p.m. 

The new restrictions begin on Friday.

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There will be exceptions to the curfew, among them people who work second or third shifts or people in need of essential items. Retail stores selling essentials such as groceries and pharmacies will also be allowed to stay open past 10 p.m, though other businesses including bars and restaurants will need to close. Enforcement will be up to local police and sheriff’s offices.

Cooper is hoping these measures, on top of the statewide mask mandate and other capacity restrictions, will help bring down the rapid spread of the virus.

North Carolina has seen record numbers of infections, and hospital beds are filling up.

Nearly half of the state’s counties are also now in critical shape, double the number of counties on the highest level of alert from just two weeks ago. And, the virus spread is so high in 80% of the state’s counties (those marked in orange and red on the statewide map) that public health experts recommend people stay home other than essential activities. 

NC Coronavirus Map By County (Dec. 8)
Eight out of 10 NC counties have critical or substantial COVID-19 spread, according to NC DHHS.

As of Tuesday, 5,605 people had died from COVID-19, according to state health data. There were 2,372 people in hospital beds around the state as of Monday.

If the state keeps seeing the disease spread as quickly as it is, the state may see intensive care unit (ICU) beds fill up statewide 4.5 weeks from now, according to a joint report from public health experts at Duke University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Just a month ago, on Nov. 11, state leaders were alarmed when the state surpassed more than 3,000 new infections reported in a single day. Over the weekend, the state topped 6,000 new infections, an incredibly worrisome spike, said NC Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen.

Statewide Surge of COVID-19 Cases
NC is seeing a rapid increase in COVID-19 infections, with half of its counties deemed “critical” by state health agencies. (Image from Dec. 8 media briefing/Sarah Ovaska)

Is the worst yet to come?

Cohen said the current surges don’t yet account for those who might have picked up the infection during Thanksgiving gatherings. She expects those people to begin feeling ill this week.

“This virus is highly contagious and dangerous, but we can slow it down,” Cohen said. “Do not wait until it is you or your loved one who is sick with COVID-19 to wear a mask.”

People should also be 6 feet apart from others, washing their hands frequently and avoiding situations where they are indoors with people other than their household members, she said.

The evidence behind COVID-19 vaccines is promising, but it will be a while before people in the general population can be vaccinated, Cooper said.  NC officials announced this week that the state’s allotment of 85,000 doses will head to 11 hospital systems to vaccinate health-care workers if the FDA approves vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna.  

Cooper said he won’t hesitate to get the vaccine, once it’s his turn to do so.

“As soon as it’s my turn, I will roll up my sleeve and do it.”