Apr 21, 2021
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper COVID-19 Press Conference Transcript April 21: Anticipates Lift of Restrictions by June 1
North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper held a press conference on coronavirus on April 21, 2021. He announced that he anticipates a lift of “all mandatory social distancing, capacity, and mass gathering restrictions” by June 1. Read the full transcript of the news briefing here.
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Speaker 1: (00:00)
Governor Roy Cooper: (00:13)
… relatively stable. Although we have seen slight increases over the past couple of weeks. The fact that our numbers aren’t yet declining reminds us of how important it is to stay vigilant in our fight against this virus. North Carolina’s strong safety protocols and actions to slow the spread are why we’ve been able to avoid a surge in cases overwhelming our hospitals. And our careful reasoned approach has worked, striking the right balance.
Governor Roy Cooper: (00:44)
Numbers released from the CDC and the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that North Carolina is among the states with the fewest deaths and fewest job losses per capita. We put health and safety first, but we’ve worked with businesses and health professionals to get it right. Now, I want us to look forward and see where we can be as spring turns into summer.
Governor Roy Cooper: (01:11)
First, when it comes to the vaccines, we want to make sure that at least two thirds of adults have at least one shot as quickly as possible. With at least two thirds of adults vaccinated, our public health experts believe we’ll have enough protection across our communities to be able to live more safely with this virus and to begin to put the pandemic behind us. We now have an adequate supply of vaccines, so we need everybody to step up. As we work on vaccinations, we need to keep our COVID trends such as cases and hospitalizations stable, and we need to keep being careful and responsible to keep those trends down and save lives. I believe we can.
Governor Roy Cooper: (01:57)
With increasing vaccination rates and ongoing work to slow the spread of the virus, I anticipate that we will be able to lift all mandatory social distancing, capacity, and mass gathering restrictions by June the 1st. And I plan to issue an executive order next week outlining safety restrictions for the month of May.
Governor Roy Cooper: (02:21)
Being able to make progress is good news for North Carolina. And here’s how we can keep doing it. We will continue to distribute vaccines in a way that’s fast and fair and we won’t let up. As of today, almost half of adults have had at least one shot and more than a third are fully vaccinated. And for our more vulnerable aged 65 and older population, almost 77% have had at least one shot and more than 71% are fully vaccinated. That’s great news, but we must keep going strong. And in a moment, Secretary of Health and Human Services, Dr. Mandy Cohen, will talk about a campaign we’re rolling out to get more people vaccinated.
Governor Roy Cooper: (03:06)
Although we’re making progress, we haven’t beaten COVID-19 yet. And the virus will still be with us even after June the 1st. So we need to keep being responsible. We need to keep wearing masks. We need to get more people vaccinated, and we need businesses to keep paying attention to current executive orders and future health recommendations. With eligibility now open to all adults and appointments easily available close to your home, we urge everyone ages 16 and older to make sure they take the time now to go and get a shot. The vaccine is safe and effective and free for everyone. There are many same day appointments and walk ins allowed. They are easy and everywhere. Vaccines are the key to us moving forward, to strengthening our economy, to making sure our children are on track for school now and in the fall, to hugging our loved ones safely, and to saving lives. Each shot in an arm as a step closer to putting this pandemic in the rear view mirror. North Carolinians have shown up for each other throughout this entire pandemic. And we need to keep that commitment by getting our vaccines. And if you’ve already gotten your shot, help your neighbors, and friends, and loved ones to get vaccinated. And if you have questions about where to get vaccinated, go to myspot.nc.gov to learn more.
Governor Roy Cooper: (04:37)
In the meantime, we’re continuing to monitor the data and the trends, both here and in other states. What we see there and across the world with the new variants is a cause for concern. Let’s not become one of those states that’s seeing a sharp increase. We all know what we need to do to move beyond this. Wear our masks, be responsible, use good judgment, get vaccinated. We’re so close and together, we’ll get through this and come out even stronger on the other side.
Governor Roy Cooper: (05:08)
At this time, I’ll recognize Dr. Cohen to share an update.
Dr. Mandy Cohen: (05:18)
Thank you, governor.
Dr. Mandy Cohen: (05:20)
As the governor shared, if we work together getting everyone vaccinated and keeping our metrics in a good place, we can bring back summer to North Carolina. We are making good progress. Our trends are largely stable. Our early warning surveillance system, who shows people who come to the emergency department with COVID like symptoms, continues to be stable and low. Our cases are stable, though the percent of our tests that are positive has inched up a bit and is now a bit over 5%. Our hospitalizations are slightly up over the last few weeks, but hospitals have capacity.
Dr. Mandy Cohen: (05:56)
We also continue to vaccinate people quickly. As the governor said, almost half of North Carolinians 18 and older are vaccinated with at least one dose. And the vast majority of those at highest risk for serious illness from COVID have been vaccinated. More than 70% of adults 65 and older are fully vaccinated. That’s amazing.
Dr. Mandy Cohen: (06:17)
As we look forward to lifting most requirements in June, I will note that masks will still be important, and safety protocols will still be recommended in certain settings. First, children under 16 are not currently able to get vaccinated. So there will be ongoing safety recommendations for places like camps and summer school to protect our children against COVID-19. Likewise, in high risk settings, such as large venues that bring a lot of people together indoors, there’ll be ongoing safety recommendations. And while June 1st is our first goal, if we keep working and can get to at least two thirds of North Carolinian adults having at least one shot, and we keep our current trends stable, we could be able to go even further and lift the mask mandate, and lighten other public health recommendation.
Dr. Mandy Cohen: (07:14)
But we’ve got work to do. Half of North Carolinian adults are still completely unvaccinated, putting them at higher risk of contracting and spreading the virus. To help us reach our goal of having at least two thirds of adults with at least one shot, we are launching a Bringing Summer Back, Get Out the Vaccine campaign. The campaign creates a space for organizations and individuals to roll up their sleeves and do their part to stop the spread of COVID-19. It will run during two weeks in May and two weeks in June, during weeks organizations across the state will rally together to promote vaccination. There are lots of ways for groups to get involved, including organizing volunteer days, handing out resources and helping to schedule appointments. There are ways for individuals to help too. So go to yourspotyourshot.nc.gov to learn more. If we can get to at least two thirds of North Carolina’s adults vaccinated, we can get back to the summer activities we all love, like backyard gatherings with family and friends, public fireworks, outdoor festivals, or parades all without wearing masks outside. I know my daughters want summer back and so do I.
Dr. Mandy Cohen: (08:29)
However until enough of us are protected by the vaccine, we need to keep protecting each other. I want to share our new video reminding us that we aren’t done just yet.
Speaker 2: (08:46)
To every North Carolinian doing the work to keep us moving forward, thank you. You put on a mask to slow the spread and protect those around you. You found creative ways to stay connected to family and friends. You lent a helping hand to a neighbor in need. Let’s keep it up because we’re not done just yet. Until enough of us are protected by the vaccine, we need to keep protecting each other.
Dr. Mandy Cohen: (09:16)
For now, keep wearing your mask in public so we keep our trends where we want them. That also means getting tested for COVID-19. Anyone with symptoms, fever, or cough, even if you’ve been vaccinated, should get a test. And if you haven’t gotten your shot yet and have been exposed to COVID, you need a test.
Dr. Mandy Cohen: (09:39)
We are at an exciting moment. We now have enough vaccine for everyone. Supply is strong and stable. It’s widely available and in most places you don’t need to wait or have an appointment. If you are 16 and older, and it is your turn to join the more than 3.6 million North Carolinians who have already taken their first shot, it’s up to you…
Dr. Cohen: (10:03)
… who have already taken their first shot. It’s up to you to get us to that 2/3 goal and beyond as quickly as possible, so we can live with this virus and begin to put this pandemic behind us. You have a spot. Take your shot. Thank you, Governor.
Governor Roy Cooper: (10:22)
Thank you, Dr. Cohen. Also with me today is our secretary of public safety, Erik Hooks, and our director of emergency management, Mike Sprayberry. Our sign language interpreters are Monica McGee and Mark Lineberger. And Jackie Metivier and Erica Kugler, our Spanish language interpreters. We’ll now take questions from the media. If you can state your name and your organization, we’d appreciate it. And we’ll take the first one.
Speaker 3: (10:53)
Our first question is from Ashley Talley with WRAL.
Ashley Talley: (10:59)
Thanks for taking my question. Just to clarify, June 1st is when you plan to lift capacity and most distancing, but no changes to the mask mandate at that point. Correct? And is there a target date when that could be lifted?
Governor Roy Cooper: (11:18)
First, we’re going to continue to have a mask mandate through May, and we will be announcing exactly what kind of mask mandate that is next week. After June 1st, we hope that that mask mandate would only be required for people in public places. Indoors is what we aim for. And Dr. Cohen’s talking about that when we get to 2/3 of people who have been vaccinated with at least one shot, then we may be able to lift all mask mandates at that point in time.
Governor Roy Cooper: (12:03)
That’s where we are, realizing that we have a situation across the country in the world where a virus and its variants are still strong. But the fact that we’ve gotten so many people vaccinated, people … we’re finding these vaccinations to be safe, and effective, and keeping people from getting this virus, and really keeping people from getting seriously ill and dying. We feel like we’re in good shape. Until then, we’ve got to still continue to make sure we’re careful and responsible. Would you want to amplify that any? Okay, great. Thanks. Next question, please.
Speaker 3: (12:42)
Follow up. Ashley Talley. WRAL.
Ashley Talley: (12:47)
I think you just made a lot of people really happy with that announcement. I know that everybody is looking forward to getting back to normal. I just had a quick followup question about two programs that the state has to help the unemployed and those who have been unemployed. We’re still getting a lot of complaints about unemployment, and people not getting checks, and also the HOPE rental assistance program. There’s $500 million in there. Why haven’t applications reopened there, and how do you think unemployment is improving?
Governor Roy Cooper: (13:17)
Well, for one, we know how hard it is for people who are unemployed. And it’s critical that we get this money to families so that they can pay their rent, put food on the table, and survive until they can get a job. We provided $11.2 billion to almost a million North Carolinians. We know that the appeals process has been difficult for a lot of people. But because of that, the state has tripled the number of people who are handling appeals since the beginning of the pandemic. There have been about 90,000 appeals so far during the pandemic. About 69% of those appeals have been handled, and they’re working really hard to try to handle the rest of them as quickly as possible.
Governor Roy Cooper: (14:16)
For the HOPE Program, we’ve been able to provide millions of dollars to thousands of people to make sure that their rent is paid and that the lights are kept on. And the good thing about the HOPE Program is that the money goes directly to the landlords and directly to utilities. And once an agreement is signed, utilities can’t be turned off and people can’t be evicted. Changes were made to the law by the General Assembly, and the HOPE Program in [inaudible 00:14:48] which is handling the North Carolina Office of Recovery and Resilience, has been working to put the program back in place with the new changes of the legislature. Also with this new money, there are new federal requirements, which they’re still going through. They hope that applications can reopen as quickly as possible, because we need to get help to people as quickly as possible. Next question, please.
Speaker 3: (15:21)
Our next question is from Dawn Vaughan with The News & Observer.
Dawn Vaughan: (15:27)
Hi, Dawn Vaughan with The News & Observer. The question’s for each of you. Governor Cooper, when you saw the Vice President on Monday, did you talk about any potential future role in her administration? Would you be interested in one? And for Dr. Cohen, when looking at the mask mandate and if this is lifted, is that going to be just outdoors on June 1st with the 2/3? And what about children under 16 who aren’t vaccinated? Will there be a factor with masks in schools?
Governor Roy Cooper: (15:56)
The Vice President and I have talked mostly about the pandemic and the response, and she talked about how well North Carolina had done. And I appreciated what the Biden-Harris Administration had done to give us a steady, strong supply of vaccines to get people vaccinated. We also talked a lot about the new jobs that are coming into our state, and the fact that people need post-secondary. They need some education after high school. And that’s one of the reasons why we met at Greensboro Technical Community College. We talked about clean energy, because we went over to Thomas Built Buses where they’re building electric buses that a lot of our cities are using, and that school buses will be used with electric buses. We know this clean energy economy is going to attract a lot of jobs to our state, and we need to take advantage of that. That’s about all we talked about. I’ll let Dr. Cohen answer her question.
Dr. Cohen: (17:01)
Hi, Dawn. Just to clarify a couple things on the timeline. I think our first goal is to get to June 1st with our trends continuing to be stable and our vaccination rates increasing. If we get to June 1st and those two things are happening, then we anticipate that we can lift most of the executive order-related restrictions. As the governor said, we would keep a mask mandate as we moved into June as we still work towards our goal of getting at least 2/3 of adults having at least one vaccine. We do anticipate that reaching that goal will take us longer into June, but I would say this is where North Carolinians really need to roll up their sleeves literally and help us get to that goal. And once we are able to get to that goal, we can further ease mask mandates and other public health guidance.
Dr. Cohen: (17:53)
I will say, as you mentioned in your question, that those under the age of 16, as you know, are not able to get vaccinated right now. It is not eligible for them to get vaccinated. And so in settings that are focused on children, we know we’ll have to have ongoing safety recommendations for those settings, as well as in those highest risks settings. Places like large venues that we’ve talked about many times. That can be places where this virus spreads more easily. Those will also need to have some ongoing safety recommendations. But I think what you’re seeing is us lay out this plan as we move from spring into summer, as we keep vaccinating. That we continue to use that dimmer switch approach. We can continue to lighten these restrictions as we continue to make progress. But we have work to do ahead of us. That’s why we’re launching the Bring Back Summer Campaign, and that get out the vaccine effort, and we’re going to need all hands on deck to make that happen. Thanks.
Governor Roy Cooper: (18:56)
Speaker 3: (19:00)
Followup. Dawn Vaughn, The News and Observer.
Dawn Vaughan: (19:03)
Hi, thanks for the followup. Governor, you said that’s about all we talked about, but you didn’t answer if you’d be interested in a role in any future or current administration with Biden or Harris. And Dr. Cohen, do you still think that children should wear a mask beyond when they’re recommended for adults?
Governor Roy Cooper: (19:21)
I’m concerned about serving as governor for the next three and a half plus years, and making sure we do a good job getting through this pandemic. Dr. Cohen.
Dr. Cohen: (19:33)
Hi, Dawn. We do anticipate wanting to make sure that our kids remain safe until they are able to also be eligible for vaccine. We do anticipate additional safety protocols in settings where it is focused on children like schools, like camps. We do expect masks to be a portion of those safety protocols. Thank you.
Governor Roy Cooper: (20:00)
Next question, please.
Speaker 3: (20:03)
Our next question-
Governor Roy Cooper: (20:03)
Next question, please.
Speaker 4: (20:04)
Our next question is from Brian Anderson with the Associated Press.
Brian Anderson: (20:07)
Hi, Governor. Hi, Dr. Cohen. Thanks for the time and the question. Governor, I had a question for you just on juvenile justice court proceedings. Kids as young as six can have to appear in court. There’s currently a bill that would raise that age to 10. Do you support that proposal, and would you rather see it raised to 12 or an older age?
Governor Roy Cooper: (20:31)
It’s wrong to have kids that young in court. We need to raise the age. I look forward to working with the legislature to make sure that we get this right. It is critical to make sure that our juvenile justice system is doing the things that we want it to do to help turn kids around that are in trouble, to help them through the process, so I look forward to working with them on making sure we get this right. Next question, please.
Speaker 4: (21:06)
Follow up. Brian Anderson, Associated Press.
Brian Anderson: (21:11)
And just following up, do want to see that raise even higher to 12 years old? But also just a logistical question for you. When can we expect in-person news conferences, and are you switching them from weekly to biweekly?
Governor Roy Cooper: (21:24)
Well first, on the age, I will work with the general assembly and talk to juvenile justice experts to determine what the right age is. I think we’ll be able to go back to in-person press conferences soon. We’re already talking about lifting most of the capacity in social distancing requirements by the end of May and into the 1st of June, so we look forward to doing that soon. Next question, please.
Speaker 4: (22:00)
Our next question is from Richard Craver with the Winston-Salem Journal.
Richard Craver: (22:05)
Yes, Governor. Richard Craver This is Richard Kramer with the Winston-Salem Journal. I just wanted to touch base and to see if there was any change in how you view some of the reopening bills that are going through the legislature right now, one of which would require council state approval for any emergency order. And I was wanting to see what steps you’re looking to take now would make those bills moot or you feel like there’s still a need just to set a precedent for future emergencies.
Governor Roy Cooper: (22:37)
I think the evidence is pretty clear that we’re doing this right. When you look at the statistics that were released by the CDC and the Bureau of Labor Statistics showing that per capita, North Carolina is among the states with fewest deaths and fewest job losses, it shows that both we’re paying attention to health and safety and our economy. I think we’ve done this right. I don’t think we need that kind of legislation after this pandemic is over. I’m glad to talk with the general assembly about executive and legislative powers and talking about a lot of things, but I think in the middle of a pandemic, we need to stay the course, do what’s right, turn the corner, work together and get out of this thing, which I believe we’re headed toward doing. Next question, please.
Speaker 4: (23:32)
Our next question from Laura Lee with Carolina Public Press.
Laura Lee: (23:38)
Good afternoon, Governor. Laura Lee from Carolina Public Press. We’re seeing hospitalizations sort of inch up over the last week. We see some other signs that, as you said, cases are slightly inching up or plateauing.Ddo you have concerns that we’ve hit a wall in terms of vaccine resistance, meaning those who want to receive it have, and that the remaining individuals who haven’t are not subsequently going to?
Governor Roy Cooper: (24:04)
Well, first, we want everybody to get vaccinated. That is, everybody who’s eligible. That’s really the way we can turn the corner, and we have plenty of supply right now. I think some people have thought, “Well, it’s too hard to get a shot,” and so we’re trying to tell people now that, “Hey, you can walk in. You can make a same day appointment. Some people we need to bring the vaccine to them. They’re home-bound people. There are others who have not made this a priority in their life, but if somebody nudges them, they would go ahead and get the vaccine. So we know that there are a lot of people out there that will get this vaccine, we’ve just got to work a little harder to make sure they can do it and get it done.
Governor Roy Cooper: (24:49)
Yeah, we have seen hospitalizations inch up. The numbers have been relatively stable. There’s a lot of hospital capacity. One good thing is that we are protecting this most vulnerable group. We’ve gotten a lot of vaccinations. More than 77% of 65 and over have gotten a vaccination. Consequently, you’ve seen a significant decline in deaths. So we remain concerned, we remain vigilant, but we’re going to keep working toward this vaccination goal and tackle any kind of hesitancy head on. Next question, please.
Speaker 4: (25:32)
Followup. Laura Lee, Carolina Public Press.
Laura Lee: (25:37)
Thank you for that. We’re still seeing some lag in particular in Hispanic communities. I believe it’s, depending on if you’re counting fully vaccinated or partially vaccinated, something around 5% or 6%, which relative to the total population is about half of where it should be. What are you all doing to address that in particular for those communities?
Governor Roy Cooper: (26:00)
From the very beginning, vaccine equity has been important to us. We’ve wanted to get shots in arms as quickly as possible. We wanted those arms to look like North Carolina. North Carolina has been cited as one of the best if not the best in transparency data, so that we can see our demographic information. You can’t tackle a problem unless you can see it, and our data allows us to see it. We’re working really hard to get those numbers up. It is a challenge across the country, but we can see it better than most states, and we are working harder at it. And I’ll let Dr. Cohen tell you about a few of the actions that we’re taking right now to make sure we tackle that problem.
Dr. Cohen: (26:55)
Hi, Laura. Well, first, I want to point out that I’m incredibly grateful to our vaccinating providers and many, many community partners that have allowed us to actually double the rate of vaccinations in our Latinx/Hispanic population, so it’s been a team effort. And again, it is because we are partnering with folks on the ground, so trusted partners in the Latinx community, whether that’s the faith community, community-based organizations. I think importantly also to make sure that we had folks at vaccine sites that are able to do translation services or to walk folks through the process.
Dr. Cohen: (27:28)
I want to particularly call out our colleagues that are running the FEMA site in Greensboro, who have done a terrific job of creating a welcoming environment for our Latinx/Hispanic community. We have community health center, community health workers there around the clock who are really helping to bring folks in, make sure that they’re comfortable, do any translation, walk them through that process, and I think that has really gotten out into the community. I want to remind folks that at that site in Greensboro right now that they’re taking walk-ins. They’re taking same day appointments, so we really encourage folks to take advantage of the resources that are available. I want to remind folks that the vaccine is free. You do not need to show ID to get vaccinated, and we want to make sure you know that your data is safe with us. So, we’re encouraging folks to get vaccinated as soon as possible. Thanks.
Governor Roy Cooper: (28:22)
Next question, please.
Speaker 4: (28:25)
Our next question is from Derek Dellinger with Fox 46.
Derek Dellinger: (28:28)
Thank you for taking my question. This is Derek Dellinger with Fox 46. Health officials here in Charlotte City are starting to see that plateau on vaccinations, and so it is fair to ask. I mean, this is something that has kind of been referenced in some of the questions and some of the things that you have seen yourselves in some of these comments. Do you anticipate that you’ll be able to have two-thirds of people by June 1st vaccinated? If not, are there any projections as to how that’s looking like right now as far as how long it’s going to take to get to two-thirds of peoples?
Governor Roy Cooper: (28:59)
First, I’ll let Dr. Cohen comment on that. I think that two-thirds is going to be hard by that particular date, but shortly thereafter, we hope that we can get there, and we believe that with all of these actions that we’re taking and with North Carolinians pulling together and doing their part, particularly those who’ve already been vaccinated, don’t let that be the end for you. Make sure you’re talking to your coworkers, your family, your friends to convince them that this is the right thing to do. But I’ll let Dr. Cohen talk a little bit about the two-thirds goal.
Dr. Cohen: (29:35)
Thanks for that question. One, I could say we are going to pull out all of the stops to make sure that we’re doing everything possible to make sure that it is easy for anyone to get a vaccine who wants it. We want to make sure it’s close to home, that you can do same-day walk-ins, that we want folks to know that vaccine is available. But as the governor said, then it becomes really about North Carolinians literally rolling up their sleeves and doing their …
Dr. Cohen: (30:03)
Really about North Carolinians literally rolling up their sleeves and doing their part. And that is really going to be the final arbiter on how quickly we can get to two thirds. I want to see us get to two thirds and beyond as quickly as possible because that is the way we put this pandemic in our rear view mirror.
Dr. Cohen: (30:18)
And we all want to bring back summer. It’s why we’re launching the Bring Back Summer Campaign. We know that it’s going to take work to get folks vaccinated. We knew that we’d reached this point where we have a lot of supply, which is great. It’s what we’ve been waiting for. Now it’s time to make sure everyone knows that vaccines are available, that they’re safe, and that folks can get them very easily very close to their home. Thanks.
Governor Roy Cooper: (30:45)
Speaker 5: (30:48)
Follow-up, Derek Dellinger, Fox 46.
Derek Dellinger: (30:52)
Are there any target areas that you guys are basically targeting right now, at least in parts of the state? Is it the mountains or the Piedmont? Is it coastal? Is it a statewide thing that you’re trying to get to two thirds? Where do you see that hesitancy still I guess is the big question?
Dr. Cohen: (31:08)
Well, Derek, thanks for that. I would say we are focusing across the state, but we are using our data to make sure that we are working in communities where we’re seeing lower rates of vaccination. I’m excited that we have data down to the census track level that helps us identify where are the communities where we’re seeing lower rates of vaccination and we may need more vaccine providers. We’re reaching out to make sure that we have enough vaccines going to that area. If we don’t have a natural partner there, then we bring in outside vendors to make sure that there are access points for folks.
Dr. Cohen: (31:42)
So we very much are using our data. But what I would say is that vaccine is available everywhere. We want everyone across North Carolina to know that and to go today to get their vaccine. It’s safe, effective, and it’s free. Thanks.
Governor Roy Cooper: (32:02)
Speaker 5: (32:04)
Our next question is from Sharon van Zwieten with Spectrum News.
Sharon van Zwieten: (32:10)
Hi, Governor. This is Sharon van Zwieten with Spectrum News. Following Pfizer’s announcement that its vaccine is 100% effective for kids from age 12 to 15, if the FDA were to approve it and supplies are available, do you think you will require school-aged kids to get the vaccine?
Governor Roy Cooper: (32:29)
That’s a health official question, so I’m going to let Dr. Cohen address that.
Dr. Cohen: (32:37)
Hi, Sharon. Well, we’re very much looking forward to hopefully an approval from the FDA to authorize the use of the Pfizer vaccine in those that are 12 and up. We’re already starting to plan for our logistics to make sure that we can get Pfizer, particularly to our pediatricians and so that they can be vaccinating folks.
Dr. Cohen: (32:59)
I want to remind folks as all the vaccines are at the moment, they are in emergency use authorization status. I think that is a particular way that the FDA has used so that we’ve gotten vaccine out quickly to everyone. And that’s been great. The fact that we have half of adults vaccinated is incredible. It’s why we’re able to make announcements like we are today to say on June 1st, we think we can anticipate lifting restrictions.
Dr. Cohen: (33:24)
So it’s amazing we’re in this place, but remember those vaccines are in emergency use status. And so while they’re in that status, I don’t think anyone’s anticipating that they would be required at this point. Thanks.
Governor Roy Cooper: (33:45)
Speaker 5: (33:48)
Follow-up, Sharon van Zwieten, Spectrum News.
Sharon van Zwieten: (33:53)
This one will be for Dr. Cohen probably. Where is the state with respect to the J&J vaccine and what do you think is going to happen there?
Dr. Cohen: (34:05)
Thanks, Sharon. I’ll remind folks that currently we are paused in our administration of Johnson & Johnson. I think what that shows is that we have picked up a few very rare cases of a blood clot. It was literally a one in a million case and it shows that our safety system is working. It can pick up these very, very rare occasions where there is an adverse outcome.
Dr. Cohen: (34:32)
And so I think what that tells us is particularly for the Moderna and the Pfizer vaccine, which is the vast, vast, vast majority of the vaccines that have been delivered, is that we are seeing safety and effectiveness in those vaccines. We encourage folks. We have pivoted our Johnson & Johnson providers back to the Moderna and Pfizer and we’re continuing to vaccinate in a high rate. So we’ll continue in that until we hear from the CDC and FDA about further recommendations coming regarding the Johnson & Johnson. So we are paused, the safety system is working, and we’re awaiting further guidance from the federal government. Thank you.
Governor Roy Cooper: (35:12)
Next question please.
Speaker 5: (35:15)
Our final question today will be from Jonah Kaplan with ABC11.
Jonah Kaplan: (35:22)
What an honor. Thanks very much. Good afternoon. This is Jonah Kaplan from ABC11. Dr. Cohen, I guess a couple of questions for you. Thank God we know a year later the virus doesn’t really transmit as much outside. We also know the virus doesn’t really transmit as much between children. And if the vast majority of our vulnerable population is vaccinated, if we’re aiming for two thirds of adults to be vaccinated, why would children then have to wear masks at camp outside?
Dr. Cohen: (35:55)
Jonah, thanks for the question. I think we want to remember that it is still all those under the age of 16 that cannot get this vaccine at this point. I’m hopeful that as we were saying in the earlier questions, that we’ll soon be able to vaccinate those that are 12 and up, but currently our middle school and most of our high schoolers still are not able to get vaccinated at this point. And so that is why we would anticipate wanting to continue with safety protocols in those settings.
Dr. Cohen: (36:25)
But I think what we have been sharing today is we are headed in the right direction. Vaccines are our way out of this pandemic. We’re making incredible progress. I think that’s why we’re able to say as of June 1st, we believe we can lift a lot of those mandatory requirements. Masks are still going to be important, even as we vaccinate more and more folks. But that’s what I said, we’re making progress here, and I look forward to making further as we get towards our vaccine goals.
Governor Roy Cooper: (36:54)
There’s a follow-up [inaudible 00:36:55].
Dr. Cohen: (36:56)
Jonah, you had a follow-up?
Jonah Kaplan: (36:59)
Oh, I do. Thank you. We talked a lot a bit about vaccine hesitancy and the worry about misinformation about the vaccines. I wanted to kind of switch it up a little bit and ask about misinformation, and I realize I’m putting you in a difficult position, but about the severity of the disease and where we are. A lot of people are still nervous with their vaccine to go to a restaurant, to go basically anywhere that they haven’t gone before. And there’s a poll out that showed many people way overestimating the rate of hospitalizations, thinking that it’s 20% or 30% or 40% of people with COVID go to the hospital, when really it’s only 1% to 5%.
Jonah Kaplan: (37:37)
So are you concerned about that fear and what can be done to kind of lower the stress level of people and recognize the vaccine is there for a purpose, so you can go back to living?
Dr. Cohen: (37:50)
Well, Jonah, thanks for that question. I want to make sure folks know that when you are getting vaccinated, you are protecting yourself, and that is really good. What we have found is that these vaccines are safe and incredibly, incredibly effective. What we’re seeing with the two dose regimens, either Pfizer or Moderna, we’re seeing 90% effectiveness, which I will tell you is better than I thought these vaccines could do. So that’s really, really good protection.
Dr. Cohen: (38:19)
But what we are saying is we want to not just protect individuals, we want to protect our whole state. We want to make sure you’re protecting your families, your communities, and so you can feel confident going out to go to your local restaurant or go back to some of the other people and places that you love. And that’s why setting this target for our state of at least two thirds of adults, that is when we feel like we have enough immunity in our communities, in our state that we are keeping this virus at bay and we are able to have more of that protection.
Dr. Cohen: (38:53)
And so we’re hopeful with us sharing that goal, sharing these messages, that folks can feel more confident as we go forward, but we have work to do to get there. So that’s why we’re going to bring back summer, we’re going to work to get out that those vaccines and make sure that folks can get vaccinated as quickly as possible. Thanks, Jonah.
Governor Roy Cooper: (39:14)
That’s all the time we have. Thanks for joining us today.