Wednesday, 21 April 2021 21:21

Cooper announces plan to ease most COVID-related restrictions by June 1

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Cooper announces plan to ease most COVID-related restrictions by June 1 Governor's Office

ROCKINGHAM — Gov. Roy Cooper said on Wednesday that, due to COVID-19 cases stabilizing and more residents getting vaccinated, he could ease more restrictions on June 1.


The governor said numbers are stable despite recent slight increases but not yet declining, “which reminds us of how important it is to stay vigilant in our fight against this virus.

New daily cases had dropped to 870 on April 4, but have fluctuated between that low and a high of 2,509 since, with nearly 2,000 cases reported on Wednesday by the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services.

The Richmond County Health Department has reported 38 new cases so far this week. There were 64 cases last week.

Cooper credited the state’s “strong safety protocols” for avoiding a surge in cases overwhelming hospitals — “And our careful, reasoned approach has worked, striking the right balance.”

Statewide hospitalizations have been on a slight upward trend this month, going from a recent low of 882 on March 27 to 1,170 on April 19. 

COVID-related hospitalizations in Richmond County increased from two on Friday to six on Tuesday before dropping to five on Wednesday.

As of Tuesday, FirstHealth had 21 COVID-positive patients out of the 394 admitted.

Cooper also said statistics from the U.S. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention and Bureau of Labor Statistics show North Carolina is among the states with the fewest deaths and fewest job losses, per capita.

Overall, the state has seen 12,480 COVID-related deaths, 14th overall in the U.S., according to Johns Hopkins University.

The governor said that with at least two-thirds of adults vaccinated, public health experts believe “we’ll have enough protection across our communities to be able to live more safely with this virus and begin to put the pandemic behind us.”

According to DHHS, 35.8% of North Carolinians are fully vaccinated. In Richmond County, that number is only 23.1%. Of those in the 65 and up demographic, 71% are fully vaccinated.

“We now have an adequate supply of vaccines, so we need everybody to step up,” Cooper said. 

If downward trends continue, the governor went on to say, he anticipates lifting all social distancing, mass gathering and occupancy restrictions by the first of June.

However, it seems the mask mandate will still be in place.

While answering a clarification question on the mandate, Cooper said the hope is for masks to only be required at indoor public spaces.

Health and Human Service Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen said there will also be safety recommendations for summer school, camps and high-capacity venues.

Cooper plans to issue an executive order next month with restrictions for May.

“Although we’re making progress, we still haven’t beaten COVID-19 yet,” Cooper said. “And the virus will still be with us even after June the first, so we need to keep being responsible.”

Cohen announced the “Bring Summer Back, Get Out the Vaccine” campaign, which will run two weeks in both May and June, to help reach the two-thirds vaccination goal.

If that goal is met, Cohen said, “We can get back to those summer activities we love,” including outdoor family gatherings, public fireworks displays, outdoor festivals and parades — “all without wearing masks outside.”

“However, until enough of us are protected by the vaccine, we need to keep protecting each other,” Cohen said.

She urged state residents to keep wearing masks, getting tested — even if you show symptoms after being vaccinated.

On Tuesday, all but a few House Republicans signed a letter to Cooper asking him to reject the implementation of vaccine passports. That topic was not brought up during Wednesday’s briefing.