During an afternoon news conference, Gov. Roy Cooper said he would make an announcement early next week about whether the state will move into a new phase of reopening on Friday, June 26--five weeks since Phase 2 began. Cooper has not yet said whether the next step will be a full Phase 3 or a modified Phase 2.5, lifting some restrictions currently in place.
Cooper cited the current metrics, which he and Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen both said are moving in the wrong direction, but added, "Let's press to make sure we can flatten that curve."
Cooper also said he and other state leaders are actively discussing whether cloth face coverings should be mandatory in public across the state. Some counties, like Durham County and Orange County, already have similar restrictions in place. Face coverings are currently required for employees at personal care salons--like hair salons and barbershops--but customers are not required to wear face coverings.
Cohen and Cooper both continued to stress wearing face coverings as one of three major components to slow the spread of COVID-19, including staying 6 feet apart from other people and washing hands frequently. "I know we see things going in the wrong direction, but if we act collectively, we can take control of our fate here," Cohen said. "I know folks want to move forward with additional openings and want to get back to the activities, I know they want to get their kids back to school...this is the way to do it--to focus on these collective actions we can do."
Cohen and Cooper both also stressed increased testing across the state as a tool to help find the virus in North Carolina--particularly among historically marginalized communities, people who work in high risk settings like nursing homes or grocery stores, and in the nine counties where cases are surging: Mecklenburg, Wake, Durham, Johnston, Alamance, Guilford, Forsyth, Lee and Duplin.
However, Cohen also said that testing is not the only way to track viral spread and creates an incomplete picture of how the virus moves through our communities. When responding to a question about proactive testing in nursing homes where no cases have been reported, Cohen said that there is a direct correlation between further reopening and increased cases in more vulnerable communities. Cohen said protective equipment, close contact tracing, visitor restrictions, and strict adherence to the "three w's" are all part of the state's strategy to prevent spread within congregate care settings.
Additionally, Cohen said that the state is working to proactively test residents and workers in all long-term care facilities, and has already done so in state-run facilities.
Here's more from our news partner WTVD ABC11: