Apr 6, 2021

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper COVID-19 Press Conference Transcript April 6

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper COVID-19 Press Conference Transcript April 6
RevBlogTranscriptsCOVID-19 Briefing & Press Conference TranscriptsNorth Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper COVID-19 Press Conference Transcript April 6

North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper held a press conference on coronavirus on April 6, 2021. Read the full transcript of the news briefing here.

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Governor Roy Cooper: (06:41)
Good afternoon, everybody. Thank you for joining us today for our COVID-19 update.

Governor Roy Cooper: (06:47)
As of today, we have had 923,430 cases, 870 new cases reported since yesterday, 982 people in the hospital, and sadly, 12,189 people who’ve died. Our prayers are with those who’ve lost loved ones or who are battling this virus. This week is Public Health Week. And if there’s ever a time to thank our hardworking and dedicated public health workers across the state, it’s now. Your work has always been important, but this past year underscored just how critical and heroic that work is. Thank you for all you’ve done, including sacrificing your own safety to save the lives of North Carolinians.

Governor Roy Cooper: (07:36)
North Carolina’s COVID-19 metrics have remained stable over the past month as we’ve cautiously eased restrictions. Our percentage of tests returning positive remain steady, and the number of hospitalizations has leveled. This is good. And our Secretary of Health and human services, Dr. Mandy Cohen will share more about our numbers in a moment.

Governor Roy Cooper: (07:56)
Although North Carolina remains in a stable position, we cannot let our guard down. This is especially true as we see rising numbers in other parts of the country and across the world. This virus is still out there and new, more infectious variants are spreading. We need to continue to be careful and responsible. I know that as summer approaches, many people are curious about how things will change and what to expect. We’re consulting with health experts, hearing from businesses and their needs, and following the science and the data. Soon, we will be giving you a forecast of what to expect as the summer approaches and some of the things that we can safely do by July the 4th. We remain focused on getting people vaccinated as quickly and as equitably as possible, and continuing to slow the spread of this virus. The more people we vaccinate, the more we can safely do.

Governor Roy Cooper: (08:58)
North Carolina continues to make progress on that front. As of today, more than 5.2 million…

Governor Roy Cooper: (09:03)
… Progress on that front. As of today, more than 5.2 million vaccinations have been administered in North Carolina. Almost 40% of our adults are at least partially vaccinated. And more than a fourth of our adults are fully vaccinated. Particularly important is that our most vulnerable population, those people 65 and over, is gaining protection every day. 73% of them have had at least one shot and more than 65% of them are fully vaccinated.

Governor Roy Cooper: (09:32)
Tomorrow group five becomes eligible for vaccine. That means anyone 16 and older can sign up for a shot. This is great news. Because of the hard work of our providers and commitment of North Carolinians to take their shot, we’re getting people vaccinated more quickly than we predicted. This will help us turn the corner on the pandemic even sooner.

Governor Roy Cooper: (09:55)
But the work isn’t over yet. We have to keep up our safety measures like wearing our mask, especially indoors. And we have to encourage each other to get vaccinated. If you know a loved one or a friend, who’s hesitant, make sure you talk with them about why it’s so important, effective, and safe. It’s the key to saving lives and moving us forward. And we all know that the most common side effect is pure joy. I’ve seen that relief and sparkle in people’s eyes at every vaccination clinic that I’ve visited. We are so close and every day counts. Every time we wear a mask makes a difference. Every person who gets a shot makes our whole state safer and healthier and helps move our economy forward. If we all do our part, we can put this pandemic in the rear view mirror once and for all. At this time, I’ll recognize Dr. Cohen to give an update on our COVID-19 metrics. Dr. Cohen.

Dr. Cohen: (11:03)
Thank you, governor. Let’s jump right into the data and look at our four key metrics, COVID like illness, cases, percent of tests that are positive, and hospitalizations. On our first slide, we look at a graph from people who come to the emergency department with COVID like symptoms over the past year. And you can see, when looking at that yellow line, we are getting close to our baseline, which is good news.

Dr. Cohen: (11:26)
Next, we look at our cases since February. And you can see our cases have leveled. This is good news, as other regions of the country are seeing increases in their COVID cases. We also look at the percent of tests that are positive since February. And looking at, again, that yellow line, the percent of positive test is level. And it’s been averaging around 5%. And finally, we look at day over day hospitalizations since February. And you can see, again, looking at the yellow line that this trend is also level.

Dr. Cohen: (11:57)
Okay. So, here is where we are overall. Surveillance data is getting close to baseline. It gets a green check. North Carolina’s trajectory of cases has plateaued. And, with those new variants the governor mentioned, we need to keep our guard up. Cases does get a yellow line. North Carolina’s trajectory in percent of tests returning positive has been at our 5% goal. This does get a green check. And North Carolina’s trajectory of hospitalizations is level, but still elevated. It does get a yellow line.

Dr. Cohen: (12:26)
Now let’s look at what’s happening locally. On this slide, you see our current County alert map. And we’ve added two new color categories so we can show our continued progress. We now have a light yellow that here represents a little bit white to show moderate spread and green for low spread. This is the first county alert map where there are no red counties. And this is great news. While the number of orange county’s increased from 21 from a previous 17, close to half of the counties in North Carolina are yellow. 31 counties now fall in this new light yellow category or moderate spread. And we have a green County, Allegheny County.

Dr. Cohen: (13:08)
Our fast and fair approach to getting vaccinations to people is really showing results. And as of today, 39% of all North Carolinians 18 and older are partially vaccinated and a quarter are fully vaccinated. And this past week, 19% of first doses went to people who identified as black or African-American. And 10% went to Hispanic, Latin X. And here in North Carolina, we’ve gotten national recognition for closing that racial and ethnic vaccine gap that’s been pervasive around much of the country.

Dr. Cohen: (13:41)
And lastly, the vast majority of those at highest risk of serious illness from COVID have been vaccinated. As the governor said, 73% of North Carolinians 65 and older have received at least a first dose and close to two thirds are fully vaccinated. We’re continuing our efforts to further reach those older adults, particularly those who are home bound. Tomorrow, we take another great step forward in our battle against this pandemic. Anyone 16 and older will be eligible to get their COVID vaccine. All three vaccines help protect against this virus and prevent hospitalization and death. For now, only the two shot Pfizer vaccine is authorized for 16 and 17 year olds.

Dr. Cohen: (14:28)
Our vaccine finder at myspot. nc.gov provides brand information to help young adults find where they can get their Pfizer vaccine shot. You can get more information about vaccines at yourspotyourshot.nc.gov. These tested, safe, and effective COVID-19 vaccines will help us get back in control of our lives and back to the people and places we love, things like safely hugging a grandma, or traveling see vaccinated family or friends, or having dinner with your vaccinated neighbors. New guidance from the CDC says that, if you’re fully vaccinated, you can travel within the United States.

Dr. Cohen: (15:08)
As the governor noted, we did not get here by accident. Our progress is the result of North Carolinians doing what it takes to protect one another day in and day out. And none of it could have happened without our public health workers. And, as was mentioned, it is National Public Health Week. So, I want to give them a special shout out from me as well. To all of our public health workers, thank you. Thank you for the incredible work you’ve done to protect North Carolinians and save lives. You’ve witnessed devastating tragedy, sacrificed so much, and met the challenge each new day of this pandemic. I’m grateful to each and every one of you. Our public health workers have saved countless lives by providing access to testing, getting masks to people, helping businesses and schools and organizations implement best practices to slow the spread of this virus. And they’ve been educating our communities about the three W’s. And now, they’re helping to get vaccines to everyone in our state. Thank you for all you do.

Dr. Cohen: (16:06)
Now, we’re making positive progress, but our work is not done yet. Keep wearing a mask, waiting six feet apart, and washing your hands, while everyone gets a spot to get their shot. Thank you, governor.

Governor Roy Cooper: (16:23)
Thanks for your continued hard work, Dr. Cohen. Also with me today is emergency management chief of staff Will Ray, our sign language interpreters will be Lee Williamson and Nicole Fox. Behind the scenes Yasmin Metivier and Sarah Arredondo, are our Spanish language interpreters. I will open the floor for questions now. And, if you can identify yourself and your organization, we would appreciate it. And we’ll take the first question.

Speaker 2: (16:56)
Our first question is from Caroline Hicks with WBTV.

Caroline Hicks: (17:01)
Hi, thank you for taking my question. As we look at kind of where we began with this vaccine rollout and where we are with opening to the general public tomorrow, I guess I just kind of wanted to get your reaction. Did you think that we would be able to do it this quickly, in less than four months? Or kind of what are your thoughts, as you look back on what we’ve learned over the last few months?

Governor Roy Cooper: (17:23)
I think this trail of research and development of vaccines and the way they have been pushed out across the country and the world has been an amazing story. I give a round of applause to all the researchers and scientists, many of whom were here right in North Carolina, who had a part in vaccine development, also in therapeutic development. And the fact that the manufacturing has continued to occur, and that we continue to increase our supply, and the fact that these vaccines are so safe and so-

Governor Roy Cooper: (18:03)
… Fact that these vaccines are so safe, and so effective, beyond anybody’s prediction, I think we’re in as good a shape as we can be right now. I don’t think any of us had imagined that we would be where we are, with the number of people we’ve gotten vaccinated with this safe and effective vaccine. We still have some more to do. A couple more months of getting vaccines in arms is going to be a very positive thing for our state, and country, and the world. And we just got to keep at it a little while longer.

Governor Roy Cooper: (18:35)
Next question, please.

Speaker 3: (18:39)
Our next question is from Richard [Kraver 00:18:41], With the Winston-Salem Journal.

Richard Kraver: (18:46)
Hello Governor, this is Richard Kraver with Winston-Salem Journal. Have a couple of questions for y’all. The first one is, at this point are y’all concerned, or have any concern about the reopenings that have happened since late February, and then I guess late March?

Richard Kraver: (19:03)
There seems to be a little bit of an uptick in positive test rates and hospitalizations in and last week or so, and I was wanting to see if you all see anything that may lend itself toward that uptick.

Richard Kraver: (19:14)
And then the second question is basically trying to get a sense for what y’all are seeing in terms of supply and demand, and if we’re hitting an inflection point. Because I know locally here in Forsyth County, it seems like there’s getting to be more supply than demand.

Governor Roy Cooper: (19:32)
Our numbers have been remarkably stable for a while, and fortunately they have plateaued. We’re going to continue to watch them. We would not have eased restrictions if we didn’t think it was time, because every day we’re vaccinating somebody new, that’s a positive thing. I think we’re pretty quickly going to reach the point where supply will exceed demand. And we’re all going to have to flip it over to make sure that we are encouraging people to get vaccinated, and that’s going to be something that we’re all going to play a part in.

Governor Roy Cooper: (20:12)
Physicians, family doctors, ministers, public figures, friends, family members all need to play a role in getting as many people vaccinated as possible. The supply is continuing to increase, we’re going to have plenty of supply to get every person vaccinated who wants a vaccine. And pretty soon we’re going to be pushing, encouraging people to get it. Because we do know at some point we will hit that peak of supply exceeding demand, and we need to continue to push up the demand until we can get as many people vaccinated as possible.

Governor Roy Cooper: (20:56)
Would you want to add to that, Dr. Cohen? Okay.

Governor Roy Cooper: (20:59)
Next question please.

Speaker 3: (21:03)
Our next question is from Michael [Highland 00:18:07] with CBS 17.

Michael Highland: (21:08)
Hi, this is Michael Highland from CBS 17. When as first, last week, you indicated there were some discussions underway regarding the potential for vaccine passports. Can you give us an update on that? We’ve seen some Republican governors in neighboring states come out pretty strongly against that concept in the last several days. Is that something you think the state should make available for people to use?

Governor Roy Cooper: (21:28)
So we think that anybody who wants to get a record of their vaccine should be able to get that record. And Dr. Cohen, I’ll let her address it, but they are working now and to find the best and easiest way for someone who says, “Hey, I want to show a record of my vaccine.” We need to be able to easily get it to them. And I think that’s something the state should do, but I’ll let Dr. Cohen address that a little more specifically.

Dr. Cohen: (22:03)
Hi Michael. So as the governor said, we obviously are collecting information about people’s vaccination so that we can track to make sure they got their first shot and their second shot. We just want to be able to make sure that folks can access their own information about that vaccine for whatever purpose they may need.

Dr. Cohen: (22:19)
So we’re looking at different IT solutions to make that as easy as possible for folks. We know that there are a few states that have already done that, and we’re looking at a number of vendor partners that we can work with in the next couple of weeks. Again, just to make things easy for folks to get their own information. Thanks.

Governor Roy Cooper: (22:40)
Next question.

Speaker 3: (22:43)
We have a follow-up Michael Highland, CBS 17.

Michael Highland: (22:45)
And this question may be for Dr. Cohen. We’ve been seeing that 18 to 49 year olds making up a larger share of the hospitalizations due to COVID-19 lately. Wanted to get your take on what you think that’s attributable to. Is that just because we’ve had a larger share of the older population getting vaccinated, is this due to behavior among younger people? Why do you think this is?

Dr. Cohen: (23:08)
Thanks, Michael. Largely in North Carolina, we’ve seen our trends be very stable. And so the cases we are seeing, not surprising, are going to be in folks who tend to be less vaccinated. And so what we know is that those over 65 are, as we went through in the data presentation, are really getting vaccinated at high rate, but we know it’s our younger population that has not yet been eligible for a vaccine. And starting tomorrow, everyone 16 and up will be eligible for a vaccine. So it’s not surprising that this virus is going to be circulating amongst folks that are not vaccinated. And that’s why we need to make sure that we are keeping up our guard.

Dr. Cohen: (23:46)
Remember, not only this virus is still circulating, but we are seeing changes in the virus itself that makes them more contagious. I think North Carolina is in a good position in that we have less amount of variants that we are seeing in other states, and that’s why other States are necessarily seeing some uptick in their cases. We’re not seeing that yet, but that’s why we need to keep our guard up.

Dr. Cohen: (24:09)
We need to continue to be doing the three W’s, but importantly, everyone needs to get a vaccine as quickly as possible when it is their time. Now, starting tomorrow, everyone’s going to be eligible. We know everyone’s not going to get a vaccine tomorrow, but we encourage folks to start really making sure that they’re putting that on their to-do list, making sure they’re getting their appointment and getting their vaccine. Because the quicker we vaccinate everyone, the safer we all are as a state. Thanks.

Governor Roy Cooper: (24:41)
Next question.

Speaker 3: (24:44)
Our next question is from Dawn Vaughn with the News and Observer.

Dawn Vaughn: (24:49)
Hi, Dawn Vaughn with the News and Observer. Governor Cooper, a question for you about your budget proposal in the Capital Grounds. I saw that you have the 2.5 million in there, again for the African-American monument on the ground. And that was derailed in 2019, again last year. So I want to know what the plan is, if this doesn’t confer with this year’s budget plans.

Dawn Vaughn: (25:13)
And then also, you’ve said before that you wanted the Confederate statues to be moved to battlefields, or historic sites. What would you like to happen with the ones that are in the Department of Edmund storage now, and the space where they are? What would you like to see on the grounds there?

Governor Roy Cooper: (25:35)
I think, yeah, thanks. I think there’s a lot of support for the African-American monument on the Capitol grounds. We have put it in our budget. I’ve heard a number of Republicans that have been supportive of it. So we hope that it can be part of the budget proposal, the final budget proposal this year.

Governor Roy Cooper: (25:54)
As to the Confederate monuments that are in storage, now. The Historical Commission will make the decision regarding those placements. And I know that they’ve got several potential spots under consideration. That’s something that they, they will be doing soon.

Governor Roy Cooper: (26:14)
Next question, please.

Speaker 3: (26:17)
Our next question is from Katie [Peralta 00:26:20] with Axios Charlotte.

Katie Peralta: (26:25)
Hi, this is Katie Peralta with Axios Charlotte, thanks for taking my call. My question. Going back to the point about supply exceeding demand, I wanted to follow up on that real quick. Are state health officials at all encouraging residents of certain high-demand areas to go get vaccine in other areas, perhaps counties where supply might already exceed demand?

Katie Peralta: (26:47)
And my follow to that is, where are you seeing supply starting to outpace demand? I guess by County. I had heard, anecdotally, that may be in more rural counties. Is there any truth to that?

Dr. Cohen: (27:01)
Hi, Katie. Mandy Cohen to answer your question. So…

Dr. Cohen: (27:03)
Hi, Katie. Mandy Cohen, to answer your question. So, a couple of things on supply and demand. I think there are certain pockets where we are seeing that there are more appointments available than there are folks to fill them. And I would definitely encourage that we are one state together. We want to get all of folks in North Carolina vaccinated. And so we are definitely encouraging folks to find a first available appointment that is near them, that is accessible to them, and to get their vaccine as soon as possible. And I think it’s a little bit different in different communities. There are certain ones where we actually see lower rates of vaccination, and we actually need more vaccine to go to those communities and more providers. Other places where we are definitely seeing that we’ve done a good job at getting vaccine to those communities, and we just need to keep up that pace.

Dr. Cohen: (27:45)
So, it’s a bit different in different parts of the state. We monitor that with our data, and with our allocation process. We ask our vaccine providers each and every week, “What are you able to take on? Are you going to be able to commit to get this vaccine out quickly? And can you get it out equitably to reflect the communities that you serve?” And so, we are seeing a lot of partnerships develop. We’re bringing on more and more vaccine partners, particularly our primary care doctors. And so we know that there are folks who really want to have a conversation with their primary care doctor before they get their vaccine. So again, more and more of our primary care doctors coming to be partners in vaccinations, as well as more and more pharmacies. So folks are, are in the grocery store, go into Publix or Harris Teeter or Walmart, now there’ll be vaccine available there as well.

Dr. Cohen: (28:36)
So I think as we move into this next phase, we want to make sure that vaccine is easily accessible to folks, it’s in more places, and so that everyone can get their vaccine as soon as possible. Thanks.

Governor Roy Cooper: (28:54)
Thank you. I will say that I was at a general practice where six doctors were practicing in Gastonia. They had been one of the providers that are giving vaccinations, and they get to consult with people. And just as they come in for something else they can say, “Hey, would you like to get a COVID vaccine?” and a lot of their patients are doing it then. As we get more and more providers involved in this, this will help us with the hesitancy, I believe, because people trust their physicians, and we think this is going to be an important part of getting more people vaccinated. Next question?

Speaker 4: (29:28)
Our next question is from Travis Fain with WRAL.

Laura Lee: (29:37)
Thank you, Travis Fain with WRL. I’m continuing to get some calls from people who have trouble with unemployment benefits, glitches, and letters that don’t always make sense. People having trouble getting their identity verified, that’s a common complaint. People waiting months for appeals, even on seemingly simple matters. How big of a problem is there at this point in the unemployment pipeline, and what’s being done to address these cases now that the volume has reduced over there from the peaks of last year?

Governor Roy Cooper: (30:09)
Everyone over at the Unemployment Division is working extremely hard to get money to people. Over 10 billion got dollars has gone to hundreds of thousands of people. They are taking every case seriously. In fact, I just issued a new executive order, and the legislature has just passed new legislation that’s going to help unemployed people find jobs. So we’re going to have job search help for people who are getting unemployment.

Governor Roy Cooper: (30:42)
The appeals process is tougher, because lawyers are required to hear those appeals. And I know that the Division has been working very hard to hire more of them so that more of the appeals can be heard. And that’s an issue that they are still working on, and we need to get better at that. But it’s critically important that we get this money out to people as quickly as possible, because we know a lot of families are hurting. Next question, please.

Speaker 4: (31:13)
A final question today from Laura Lee with Carolina Public Press.

Laura Lee: (31:19)
Good afternoon, Governor. Laura Lee from Carolina Public Press. I just wanted to revisit Michael’s question about vaccination passports. Understanding you want people to have access to their information, but I guess there’s a distinction between that and a government-mandated passport of some sort that some people are concerned about. So, just to revisit that and hopefully get some clarity on what your stance is on vaccination passports.

Governor Roy Cooper: (31:44)
We’re working on ways to easily be able to provide a record of a vaccine to anyone who wants it. Obviously, you need to be careful with civil liberties and privacy, but we think that that ought to be available to anybody who asks for it, and so, the Department is working on the best way to do that. I understand that you have a follow-up.

Laura Lee: (32:17)
Yeah, thank you for that. So, my follow-up is about thresholds for loosening restrictions. We’ve heard various numbers about how many people would need to get vaccinated to get us to herd immunity. Is there a threshold number for where we would need to be to lift all of the remaining restrictions?

Governor Roy Cooper: (32:38)
So, we’re going to continue to examine the four data points that we look at every single day, and follow on a week-by-week basis to tell us where we are. We’re going to look at how pervasive these variants are out there and whether there is any concern, and the number of people that are getting vaccinated. And we are working now on a little, a prediction of where we think we’re going to be leading up to July 4th, based on the information that we have now. And, when we come together and get that information to you maybe next week, sometime, where we can present that to be a little more definite about where we’re going to be, because we know people want to plan, people who have venues and who hold concerts and all of that need to know about what kind of atmosphere they’re going to have or capacity limits, if any.

Governor Roy Cooper: (33:42)
And so, we want to try to provide more of a forecast of where we think that is going to go over the next couple of months. And so we’re going to be coming forward with that soon. Thank you all for your questions today, and please stay safe out there.

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