DHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen looks on as Gov. Roy Cooper addresses the media this spring in Raleigh. NC DHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen
DHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen looks on as Gov. Roy Cooper addresses the media this spring in Raleigh.

State officials offer guidance for reopening schools, look to boost testing of asymptomatic people after NC sets one-day high for new cases Saturday. 

It’s been more than two months since Gov. Roy Cooper, heeding the encroaching coronavirus pandemic, issued a stay-at-home order in North Carolina.

But new figures show that, while the state fared better than others at “flattening the curve,” new cases continue to trend upward. Indeed, NC reported its highest one-day total of new cases on Saturday, with 1,370 lab-confirmed coronavirus cases.

The state’s Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) reported 37,160 confirmed cases Tuesday morning. Deaths in the state surpassed 1,000 over the weekend, and 23 new deaths were reported Tuesday.

The dangerous virus has killed 1,029 in North Carolina, and according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center, 111,194 in the US. 

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State figures indicate that new cases and positive tests as a percentage of all tests are trending upward, key markers on the state’s progress.

Source: NC Department of Health and Human Services

State officials say they are ramping up testing on people who are asymptomatic but may have been exposed to the virus, where earlier leaders focused on individuals showing COVID-19 symptoms like a fever, cough and shortness of breath.

The N.Y. Times reported Tuesday that new infections setting a global high Sunday, the World Health Organization is “walking back” its claim that asymptomatic transmission of the virus is rare.

DHHS released updated guidance for healthcare providers Tuesday, acknowledging that the easing of social distancing restrictions only makes testing more important. Cooper ordered the state into Phase 2 of reduced restrictions on May 22, despite the concerns of some medical professionals.

“Community mitigation strategies have been eased to allow resumption of activities and there have been more mass events/gatherings in the state, thus leading to more opportunities for transmission,” the DHHS memo said. “Increased testing, including for those without symptoms, expanded contact tracing, and adherence to control measures like self isolation and quarantine, are important to control viral transmission across the state.”

State leaders are also turning their attention to preparation for the 2020-2021 school year. As of today, the state plans to keep schools’ late August return date.

Cooper announced a new toolkit with guidance for school leaders Monday, a plan developed following recommendations from the US Centers for Disease Control. 

“We very much want school buildings open, but we won’t be reckless with such an important decision. We know this coming school year will be like no other,” Cooper said.

Check back with Cardinal & Pine for more updates on COVID-19 in North Carolina.