Gov. Roy Cooper extended the ‘modified’ Phase 3 COVID lockdown to Nov. 13.
Meanwhile 36 counties have been told to do more to control the spread of the novel corona virus.
Cooper made the comments during a press conference Wednesday afternoon where he and senior staff provided an update on the state’s COVID-19 recovery.
Secretary Mandy Cohen of the Department of Health and Human Services said the state currently has around a five percent positive testing rate, which she said is better but “still too high.” Cohen sounded the alarm last week when positive COVID-19 cases spiked for the first time since July.
Hospitalizations are up, she said, but hospital capacity is still good throughout the state. Use of the state’s contact tracing app – which uses GPS and Bluetooth technology to tell individuals if they are in close proximity to a COVID-19 patient—is also up.
“We have seen a disappointing number of increases in cases associated with mass gatherings and religious activities,” Cohen said.
In a letter from the Department of Health and Human Services, state officials encouraged stricter enforcement measures, including
· fines for not wearing a mask.
· fines for businesses that do not enforce the mask mandate.
· more restrictions on restaurants and mass gatherings.
· stop all on-premise alcohol sales before 11 p.m.
· close bars and nightclubs.
The following counties received the NCDHHS letter: Alamance, Avery, Burke, Caldwell, Caswell, Catawba, Chowan, Cleveland, Craven, Cumberland, Davidson, Duplin, Edgecombe, Gaston, Graham, Greene, Guilford, Hoke, Hyde, Johnston, Lincoln, Mecklenburg, Moore, Nash, New Hanover, Onslow, Pitt, Randolph, Robeson, Rockingham, Rowan, Scotland, Union, Wake, Watauga and Wayne.
Cooper also called on all local governments to work harder to enforce state guidelines on masks, social distancing and gatherings, even suggesting that authorities begin issuing civil penalties to people who don’t comply. Cooper placed that responsibility on local governments, and stopped short of saying the state would enforce the mandates. He also did not detail what might happen if counties and municipalities refused.
Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, who is challenging Cooper for the state’s top executive seat, put out a statement criticizing Cooper’s remarks moments after the press conference Wednesday (today).
“To put it bluntly: Governor Cooper is attempting to use local governments to punish business and individuals doing what they can to survive,” Forest said. “He has repeatedly said he has full authority over his COVID shutdown, which means he also gets 100 percent of the responsibility. Passing the buck to local businesses and municipalities is the antithesis of leadership.”
Columbus County has reported more than 1,600 cases of COVID since the start of the pandemic, with 59 deaths. The county will release updated data on local cases Thursday.