NC Gov. Roy Cooper addresses coronavirus during a Nov. 5 media briefing. (Image via NC DPS) Roy Cooper
NC Gov. Roy Cooper addresses coronavirus during a Nov. 5 media briefing. (Image via NC DPS)

State officials are warning of a new peak in coronavirus cases in the state as the holidays approach. 

North Carolinians hoping for a larger Thanksgiving gathering should think again.

As coronavirus numbers continue to climb in the state, Gov. Roy Cooper on Tuesday said that the state will adjust its indoor gathering limit down from 25 to 10 people, while the state will remain in Phase 3 of its COVID-19 protocol.  

“We need everyone focused on how to keep safe this holiday season,” Cooper told reporters. 

The state’s numbers have been on an upward trajectory over the last month, a fact Cooper attributed Tuesday to an increasing number of gatherings in October. It’s unclear if the governor was referring to political rallies or Halloween gatherings in the state. NC was a focal point of the Donald Trump and Joe Biden campaigns in the closing weeks of the campaign, although, unlike the Biden campaign, Trump held large rallies with mostly unmasked supporters who did not maintain social distancing.

The dangerous virus has plagued NC since March, infecting more than 297,000 people and killing 4,660. It’s also wreaked havoc on the state’s economy as state officials imposed new health guidelines to blunt the virus’ spread.

NC Secretary of Health and Human Services Mandy Cohen said the state is on “shaky ground,” noting more than 2,500 new cases reported in NC Tuesday. The state set a new record high with more than 2,900 new cases Friday. 

“We are experiencing a new peak,” said Cohen. “This is concerning particularly as we head into the holidays.”

Cooper said North Carolinians should consider reducing the invite list for Thanksgiving, put some more distance between the tables, and consider outdoor meals. The governor said families might also hold virtual gatherings. 

He also urged residents to continue to wear masks, practice social distancing and wash their hands. 

“We need to focus on bringing our numbers down,” Cooper said. “We know how to do it.”

Data via NC DHHS

‘Hope is on the horizon’

Given the grim figures reported by state officials, particularly heading into a holiday season that’s typically reserved for large church gatherings and family meals, Cooper and Cohen attempted to offer some comfort to North Carolinians Tuesday.

As Cohen pointed out, there are promising results associated with a potential vaccine produced by the multinational pharmaceutical company Pfizer. She said the US Food & Drug Administration has also given emergency approval to a promising antibody treatment for the virus. 

“I am very pleased with the progress of the scientific community and what they’re doing to fight COVID,” Cohen said. 

“This pandemic will end,” Cooper added. “A vaccine is in the final stages of development and the FDA has approved a promising new treatment. Hope is on the horizon, this pandemic will not last forever.”