Gov. Roy Cooper said changes in key COVID-19 measurements indicate that North Carolina will likely be ready to enter Phase 1 of his reopening plan in the coming week.
The first phase of Cooper's three-part plan to reopen the state calls for the stay-at-home order to remain in place, but allows people to leave their homes for commercial activity with some restrictions and guidance in place, such as social distancing and cleaning protocols.
In a Thursday press briefing, Cooper said stabilization in four recovery metrics, including hospitalizations, lab-confirmed cases, positive tests as a percentage of total tests and COVID-like syndromic cases, will be necessary before the state is ready for Phase 1.
"There are some potential warning signs again," Cooper said. "That being said, North Carolinians have made tremendous sacrifices, and it's working."
Dr. Mandy Cohen, secretary of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, said these metrics indicate that social distancing is working to stop coronavirus’ spread.
"We continue to see that North Carolina is doing well," Cohen said. "We have flattened the curve."
According to the state Department of Health and Human Services, there are 10,509 laboratory-confirmed cases of coronavirus in N.C. today. Although there has been an increase in positive tests over the past 14 days, Cohen said this is partially due to an overall increase in testing capabilities.
"We want to increase testing," Cohen said. "We know there's more COVID-19 out there, so we know we'll pick up more cases."
Though numbers of positive tests and COVID-like cases have increased, Cohen said, these increases are balanced by a decrease in the proportion of positive tests and a leveling-off in daily coronavirus hospitalizations.
"This is largely leveling, and that's a good thing," Cohen said.
Cooper said that although he was encouraged by the number of people who are abiding by social distancing guidelines, those who aren’t may be putting others at risk.
"I have concerns when people are blatantly ignoring rules because it can cost lives," Cooper said. "This is truly a matter of life and death."
Cooper said he is hopeful that if the state does successfully move into Phase 1 of his recovery plan, the state can quickly and safely transition into Phase 2, which would lift the current statewide stay-at-home order.
Looking to further stabilize these metrics and the economy, Cooper said it is crucial that North Carolinians continue to stay at home and practice social distancing, at least for the time being.
"We must get this economy running better," Cooper said. "But we need working North Carolinians to trust that they can feel safe as we move forward."
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