North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, justified his slow reopening of the state on Monday after President Trump threatened to move the location of the Republican National Convention, currently scheduled to be held in Charlotte from August 24 to August 27, if the governor fails to move more quickly.
“North Carolina is relying on data and science to protect our state’s public health,” Cooper said in a statement made in response to the president’s comments on Monday.
But a look at the science and the data suggest that a complete reopening of the state is in order now. Protesters who gathered in several locations on Monday calling to “ReOpen NC” agreed.
Cooper announced on Wednesday that the state would move to Phase 2 of reopening–which still prohibits bars and gyms from reopening and limits gatherings to ten or fewer–on Friday. Cooper said his Phase 2 “Safer at Home” executive order will remain in effect until at least June 26.
“After two weeks in Phase 1, the state’s overall key indicators remain stable but the continued increases in daily case counts signal a need to take a more modest step forward in Phase 2 than originally envisioned,” the governor and North Carolina Health and Human Services Secretary Dr.Mandy Cohen said in Wednesday’s statement.
The governor conceded that the data for all major criteria for reopening, except for total number of new cases, have either leveled or decreased. The number of new daily cases has increased, but so too has the number of daily tests administered. The percentage of those tested for COVID-19 who are positive declined from 13 percent on April 26, to eight percent on May 20, the day he made his announcement, and current hospitalizations have remained level:
- North Carolina’s syndromic surveillance trend for COVID-like illness is decreasing.
- North Carolina’s trajectory in percent of tests returning positive has been decreasing and is starting to level.
- North Carolina’s trajectory of hospitalizations is level.
From April 29 to May 18, the number of patients currently hospitalized with COVID-19 declined from 551 to 487, according to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCHHS). In the intervening week, it increased back up to 554 as of May 20, when Gov. Cooper made his announcement.
While the number of cases that have tested positive for COVID-19 on a daily basis increased from 380 when 5,688 were tested on April 29 to 422 when 12,595 were tested on May 20, even Gov. Cooper admits the number of those who have been tested for COVID-19 has increased dramatically over that same time period.
“North Carolina has more than doubled the daily testing rate with more than 8,000 tests completed daily on average. More than 300 testing sites across North Carolina are posted on the DHHS testing information website,” Cooper acknowledged on Wednesday.
WSOC TV reported on Monday’s developments:
Cooper allowed the state to enter a second phase of gradual reopening Friday with some further loosening of restrictions on hair salons, barbers and restaurants. But he said the state must continue to closely watch virus trends and has ordered entertainment venues, gyms and bars to remain closed.
On Monday, Cooper responded to Trump’s tweet, saying, “State health officials are working with the RNC and will review its plan as they make decisions about how to hold the convention in Charlotte. North Carolina is relying on data and science to protect our state’s public health and safety.”
At noon, Mecklenburg County and the city of Charlotte released a joint statement, saying, “We are in constant communication with our local and federal counterparts to plan and prepare for a safe Republican National Convention (RNC). The City of Charlotte, Mecklenburg County and other local stakeholders will continue to plan for the RNC while respecting national and state guidance regarding the pandemic. We are working with stakeholders to develop guidelines for several large events planned for Charlotte in the coming months including the RNC and anticipate providing that guidance in June.”
Gov. Cooper has consistently slow walked the reopening of North Carolina, as Breitbart News reported back on April 29 when the governor refused to move the state to Phase 1 before May 8, even though the guidelines for Phase 1 reopening had been met more than a week earlier.
Cooper did not directly address the state’s apparently expanding problem of COVID-19 nursing home deaths in either his statement on Wednesday announcing Phase 2, or in his responses to the president on Monday.
As of April 29, there were 187 deaths from long term care facilities (nursing homes and residential care facilities) in North Carolina, or 49 percent of all COVID-19 deaths, according to the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.
In the subsequent four weeks, deaths from long-term care facilities have increased as a percentage of all COVID-19 deaths in North Carolina.
According to the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, data provided by NCHHS showed that, as of Tuesday May 19, the state had 436 COVID-19 nursing home deaths, or 63 percent of the total COVID-19 related deaths in the state.
The NCHHS website reported that as of Friday, nursing homes and residential care facility COVID-19 deaths totaled 458, or 63 percent of the state’s 728 COVID-19 deaths as of that time. (Total COVID-19 deaths in North Carolina as of Monday had increased to 754.)