Monday, 15 June 2020 23:31

NC mulls making masks mandatory; Richmond County cases climbing

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Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen takes off a face mask to speak during Monday's briefing. Gov. Roy Cooper said state health officials are considering making mask-wearing mandatory. Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen takes off a face mask to speak during Monday's briefing. Gov. Roy Cooper said state health officials are considering making mask-wearing mandatory. Screenshot

ROCKINGHAM — State health officials are “absolutely in discussion right now” as to the possibility of making face-mask wearing mandatory.


Gov. Roy Cooper hinted at the mandate Monday while answering a reporter’s question during a briefing.

The governor said face masks are currently mandatory for certain employees, including those who work in hair and nail salons, and that health experts are looking at studies regarding the effectiveness of face coverings.

“We want people voluntarily to do this,” Cooper said, but we are looking at additional rules to potentially make these mandatory.”

He then turned to the mic over to Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen, who said studies show masks are more effective when “many, many folks” are wearing them.

“That’s why we keep harping on the Three Ws and saying, ‘We can do this together,’” Cohen said.

The Three Ws touted by the Department of Health and Human Services are wearing a face covering, waiting six feet apart and washing hands frequently.

“If we do this collectively, the data shows we can still flatten this curve,” Cohen said.

“I know folks want to move forward with additional openings and want to get back to activities,” she said. “This is the way to do it, to focus on these collective efforts.”

When asked when the state would move into Phase 3 and if bars and gyms would be able to open then, Cooper said health experts are looking “at the numbers and the science,” and an announcement would be made at the beginning of next week to let state residents know if we will go into the next phase, “and if so, what that phase will look like.”

Cooper and Cohen both said tracking trends are going in the wrong direction, despite a slight drop in new cases and hospitalizations in recent days.

Earlier in the briefing, Cooper said he spoke with Vice President Mike Pence to ask for federal help in increasing testing sites and capabilities.

There are about 500 testing sites across the state, according to Cohen.

Cooper said the state will also be making efforts to provide testing of patients in staff in all nursing homes and in nine select counties with high case numbers: Mecklenburg, Wake, Durham, Johnston, Alamance, Guilford, Forsyth, Lee and Duplin.

Mecklenburg, the state’s most populated county, has the most cases at 7,321. Wake has topped 3,000; Guilford, Durham and Forsyth have more than 2,000 each; and Johnston and Duplin have more than 1,000.

Several counties — including Randolph, Robeson and Rowan, which all have more than 900 cases — are reported to have more cases than Alamance (778) and Lee (596).

While the state shows Robeson still has fewer than 1,000, the county’s health department reported 35 new cases on Monday, bringing its total to 1091 —124 more than the number reported by DHHS.

Wayne County also has had more than 1,000 cases.

COVID-19 cases in Richmond County also continue to increase, with the Health Department reporting nine new cases Monday.

This was the second reporting day in a row (no update was provided on Sunday) with nine new cases, bringing the county’s total to 215 since the first was reported on April 7.

According to the Health Department, there are 66 active cases with two patients hospitalized and 64 under home isolation.

Of the state’s 45,102 lab-confirmed cases, DHHS estimates that 29,219 have recovered. The state releases recovery estimates each Monday.

Health officials say 1,118 North Carolinans have died as a result of or due to complications related to the coronavirus, including five in Richmond County.

BY THE NUMBERS

The number of cases per age group (including recoveries) are as follows:

  • 0-18 - 22
  • 19-30 - 37
  • 31-40 - 27
  • 41-50 - 41
  • 50-64 - 57
  • 65-older - 31

The total numbers (including recoveries) for surrounding counties are as follows:

  • Union - 733
  • Anson - 87
  • Stanly - 164
  • Montgomery - 210
  • Moore - 335 
  • Hoke - 300
  • Scotland - 111

All numbers except Moore are from DHHS, which is from the local health department, as there is a discrepancy with the state.

The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control last updated its numbers on June 14, reporting 292 cases in Chesterfield County and 237 in Marlboro County — an increase of only one each from the previous day.