Aug 3, 2020
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper Press Conference Transcript August 3
North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper held a press conference on coronavirus on August 3. He discussed COVID-19 and Hurricane Isaias precautions. Read the full transcript here.
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Governor Roy Cooper: (00:00)
Inland areas are also at risk. Be prepared for a lot of rain, as much as seven inches in some places. The rain combined with high winds can lead to flooding, down trees and down power lines, and make sure you’re ready with supplies, flashlights, and things, in case you lose power. And remember, never drive through flooded roads, as little as 18 inches can sweep a car away. We’ve lost too many lives after these storms because of people trying to drive through water. We have deployed water rescue, transportation and emergency workers to the Eastern part of the State. I’ve talked with the United States Coast Guard leadership, and they are standing by to help along with our North Carolina National Guard.
Governor Roy Cooper: (00:52)
Healthcare workers are preparing to assist at a medical shelter if it’s needed. Swift-Water Rescue teams, high water vehicles and helicopters are standing by, and have been strategically positioned. State and local officials continue to be on the ready, and Director Sprayberry we’ll discuss more of those preparations. Listen to local officials, and follow any evacuation orders that you get when they’re issued. If you’re told to evacuate, the most important thing to do is get out of the danger zone. First plan to stay with family or friends. And if that doesn’t work, a hotel is the next option if you can afford it, but no shelters will be available for those who need them. Visit your County Government website or call two one, one for instructions on sheltering options.
Governor Roy Cooper: (01:45)
Shelters will screen people for Coronavirus symptoms. If someone has COVID-19 or show symptoms, they’ll be directed to a sheltering option for isolation or medical attention. Shelters we’ll have PPE and we’ll honor social distancing. Now I know that North Carolinians have had to dig deep in recent months to tap into our strength and resilience during the pandemic, and that hasn’t been easy, but with this storm on the way we have to dig a little deeper. Let’s keep each other safe from the wind and water as well as from the virus. As this storm arrives in just a few hours, remember the power that comes from helping one another. We’re all better off when we work together. I’d like to ask our Director of Emergency Management, Mike Sprayberry, to share an update with us. Mike.
Director Mike Sprayberry: (02:40)
Thank you Governor, and thank you for your leadership. Today is 147 of the COVID-19 response at the State Emergency Operation Center, and is day four of the Isaias evacuation. Today, we all of our preparations for the storm’s arrival into the State, which will occur later tonight, North Carolina residents should have completed their personal preparations as well. If you’re still making last minute preparations visit readync.org for guidance on personal preparedness, as well as defined current shelter locations.
Director Mike Sprayberry: (03:21)
We continue to coordinate closely with our counties as they make final preparations for the storm’s arrival and to support any resource needs. They are now opening up their EOC and shelters. The cert has 142 motivated North Carolina National Guard soldiers and airmen staged at locations in Central and Eastern North Carolina, ready to respond as needed. Highly trained Swift Water Rescue teams with Zodiac boats and also aviation assets are also at the ready at multiple locations. Other State partners, such as the State Highway Patrol and the Department of Transportation have resources, either embedded with our County partners or stage to decisively move into impacted communities.
Director Mike Sprayberry: (04:10)
The power companies are expecting widespread power outages, and they have crews ready to begin restoration as soon as Isaias passes. If your power goes out, remember these safety tips, don’t use a generator or a grill in your home or garage, they generate carbon monoxide fumes that can be deadly. Use flashlights or battery powered lights instead of candles. Charge yourself phones and other devices now, before the power goes out. If cell phone networks are degraded, remember that a text message will often go through when a phone call will not.
Director Mike Sprayberry: (04:48)
As this storm moves in this evening and overnight, be prepared for power outages and the possibility of flooding. This will be true for areas along the coast, as well as inland. Along the coast storm surge will be a significant threat, particularly in Brunswick and New Hanover counties. Make sure you have a way to receive weather alerts that will alert you overnight like a weather radio or a smartphone app, this is especially important if you live in a flood prone area. You can also use the States Flood Inundation Mapping and Alert Network to let you know when rivers streams or coastal waters near you are rising the flood levels. That’s fimannc.gov. Again, that’s fiman.nc.gov to learn about flooding in your area.
Director Mike Sprayberry: (05:41)
Stay off the roads tonight, unless you absolutely need to travel or ordered to evacuate. Hazards like flooded roads and down trees and power lines will be difficult to see in the rain and darkness. If ordered to evacuate by your local officials promptly as directly, don’t let concerns about COVID-19 prevention your evacuation evacuate the shortest distance possible to get out of the impacted area. Try to stay with family, friends, or a hotel to minimize contact with others during this pandemic. If these options are not available, go to a shelter. Remember if told to evacuate, don’t hesitate.
Director Mike Sprayberry: (06:21)
If you live at a safe place inland, please do your part and offered to let family or friends evacuate to your home. Both non congregate and congregate shelters are available for evacuees who require sheltering. Look to your County Government website and social media channels for sheltering instructions for your County. Local Governments and the American Red Cross have health screening, physical distancing, and cleaning protocols in place and shelters to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus. The new Know Your Zone Program is also an effect. 20 coastal counties have developed coastal evacuation zones based on areas most at risk due to storm surge and river flooding. Visit knowyourzone.nc.gov to see if you live in one of these evacuation zones, and listen for it if evacuations are ordered.
Director Mike Sprayberry: (07:15)
Being aware and prepared is the key to staying safe during Isaias and through the rest of the hurricane season. We need each of you to remain vigilant tonight as this storm begins to impact us, and to not become complacent about the potential impacts of this event. And don’t forget to observe the 3Ws, wear a face covering, wait six feet apart and wash your hands to stop the spread of COVID-19. As always, don’t forget to [inaudible 00:07:44] your family, friends and neighbors during the pandemic and Isaias. Call your loved ones today to make sure they’re ready, I guarantee they’ll appreciate it. With kindness and cooperation, we’ll all get through this together as one team, one mission and one family. Thank you Governor.
Governor Roy Cooper: (08:04)
Thank you Direct Sprayberry. I’ll now hand it over to our Secretary of the Department of Transportation, Eric Boyette, to provide an update on their preparation. Eric.
Secretary Eric Boyette: (08:18)
Thank you Governor. All of our staff are prepared and ready to respond to this storm. We have sent home our maintenance crews so that they can rest and do what they need to do for their personal homes, and prepare to work later tonight and tomorrow, we have more than 2200 highway personnel ready to respond to this storm, and we’ve repositioned and pre-positioned equipment materials and road barricades so that we’re ready to go. Ferries have completed their evacuation efforts on Ocracoke. We’ve evacuated over 1700 vehicles, 3,500 people from Ocracoke Since Friday. We had completed suspension of all of our coastal fairies by five o’clock today. We will be mooring in those vessels today to make sure they’re safe during the storm as it passes.
Secretary Eric Boyette: (09:02)
As of today, the Ports of Morehead and Wilmington are fully secure and close to commercial activity. I would like to remind everyone in the path of this storm, please take this storm seriously. This storm is forecast to have heavy rain, heavy winds and flooding in Eastern North Carolina late tonight and through midday, Tuesday. People should avoid traveling in areas with flooding, high water, there are particularly low lying areas prone to flooding. Don’t attempt to travel as the storm is passing through North Carolina on Tuesday. We will be working very hard to restore the mobility as quick as possible, but our safety is our first priority.
Secretary Eric Boyette: (09:43)
Even after the storm has passed, please remember to follow these rules, never drive around a barricade, when the road is safe, we will open it back up, never drive through water, and please visit drivenc.gov for the latest road conditions.
Governor Roy Cooper: (10:04)
Thank you Secretary Boyette. I’d now like to recognize Colonel Glenn McNeil, the commander of the North Carolina State Highway Patrol. Colonel McNeil.
Colonel Glenn McNeil: (10:16)
Thank you Governor. The Highway Patrol continues to work with our State and local partners as we all continue to monitor the storm’s path. Troopers are strategically positioned across the State ready to respond at a moment’s notice to impact areas effected by the storm. As the storm makes landfall roadway conditions within the impacted areas will diminish quickly. This will make travel in certain portions of our State very dangerous. Flash flooding, down trees, and power lines, and high winds are to be expected throughout the night.
Colonel Glenn McNeil: (10:56)
As in past storms, our message is very clear, please do not attempt to drive through flood waters, the decision to do so could lead to tragic circumstances, and has contributed to several deaths during previous storm events. For those who must travel overnight and into the morning hours, please reduce your speed. Remain aware of the potential roadway hazards. Once again, please do not drive through flood waters and around barricades. The public can stay informed of local roadway conditions by visiting drivenc.gov. Also Star HP and 911 should be contacted for emergency purposes only. Please remember that your safety, it remains our States, and our Governor’s, and our agencies highest priority. Thank you Governor.
Governor Roy Cooper: (11:55)
Thank you Colonel McNeil. We are grateful for those courageous troopers out there. I’d now like to recognize Major General Todd hunt, the adjutant General of the North Carolina National Guard. General hunt.
General Todd Hunt: (12:16)
Thank you Governor. Before I begin, I would like to personally thank the men and women of the North Carolina National Guard, who since March have been supporting COVID-19 relief. I want to thank you for yourself as service. So as previously mentioned, we are currently authorized 150 soldiers and airmen for duty to support the storm that’s approaching. We’re deployed into six different locations and our citizen soldiers and airmen deployed yesterday to integrate with our Department of Public Safety and local officials at these locations. The locations that we’re currently located at are Kenston, Elizabeth Town, Williamston, Edenton, Clayton, and Mocksville.
General Todd Hunt: (13:01)
We are currently capable of providing a variety of support with the most important one being lifesaving measures and operations within the first 24 to 48 hours, followed by logistics support and then commodity distribution. We currently have 41 vehicles. Some of these vehicles can take high water. We also have communications equipment on hand, warehouse specialists for warehouse operations, and medical support for those communities that will require that as part of the DPS enterprise. We are ready to support, and I would again like to think that our citizens soldiers, and airmen, and their families for answering the call as the guardians of North Carolina. Thank you Governor.
Governor Roy Cooper: (13:49)
Thank you General Hunt. We’re grateful for our National Guard soldiers, their service overseas, some of them just got back home, and we’re grateful for the work that they have provided us during the pandemic. We’ll now take questions from the media. If you can identify yourself and your organization first, please. And we’ll take the first question.
Speaker 6: (14:11)
Our first question is from Lynn Bonner with The News & Observer.
Lynn Bonner: (14:15)
Thank you for taking my question. This is Lynn Bonner from The News & Observer. With a storm expected to make landfall tonight, are you aware of any plans to evacuate in advance so people aren’t living in the dark?
Governor Roy Cooper: (14:30)
There have been some evacuations that have been already ordered by several Local Governments. I’ll let Director Sprayberry tell us what he knows on that.
Director Mike Sprayberry: (14:42)
Thank you Governor, and thank you Lynn. So right now we know that the Hatteras Island up in Dare County and Ocracoke Island in Hyde County, and then several other municipalities have ordered evacuations. We don’t know of any further evacuations at this time. There could be some more evacuations in the coming hours, but I would think that you’re not going to see too many more evacuations at this point, due to the timing of the storm. We’re expecting that to arrive as early as 8:00 PM tonight with some tropical storm force winds in Southeastern, North Carolina. So probably will not be seeing too many more evacuations at this point. Thank you.
Governor Roy Cooper: (15:34)
Thank you. Next question please.
Speaker 6: (15:38)
Our next question is from Will Michaels with WUNC.
Will Michaels: (15:43)
Hi Governor. Will Michaels with WUNC. Given that shelters are going to be observing social distancing, I would imagine that they are not going to be able to hold as many people as they usually would. Is that correct? And how are y’all taking them into account?
Governor Roy Cooper: (16:00)
That is correct, and in fact, we want to make sure that each person has 115 square feet in the shelter in order to be able to assure social distancing. There’s also going to be PPE, hand sanitizer, and a lot of work to make sure that when you have people in a congregate sheltering like that, that we don’t spread the virus. This is one of the reasons why we are encouraging people to find places to stay with family or friends, and then also encouraging them, if they can’t do one of those, to stay at a hotel, if they can’t afford it.
Governor Roy Cooper: (16:39)
But Local Government, along with our emergency management people have worked very hard to identify a number of places where people can go, recognizing that we’re going to need more space with shelter, and I think we are comfortable at this point that we’ll have enough room for people and still be able to social distance. If the storm gets worse than there are more shelters that we can open up inland, larger shelters that we can put in place like we did with Florence, but we believe that we can handle it thus far. Mike, you got anything to add to that? Okay, next question, please.
Speaker 6: (17:23)
Our next question is from Michael Highland with CBS 17.
Michael Highlander: (17:28)
Hi, this is Michael Highland from CBS 17. I want to ask more broadly about the hurricane season overall would be anticipated budget shortfalls in our State, and many other States are facing. Is that having any impact on planning for the rest of the season to ensure that we have the resources we need to respond in the event we have multiple storms?
Governor Roy Cooper: (17:47)
We have contacts with other States, and we work on sharing personnel and equipment, but we also want to make certain that in each circumstance that North Carolina has enough. I’ll let Mike address to see what specific requests have been made thus far.
Director Mike Sprayberry: (18:08)
Thank you Governor. Thank you sir. We have not made any requests from other States for resources for Isaias. And so we would anticipate that there could be some resources that we might need for other storms like urban search and rescue teams or perhaps more aviation assets, but we believe that we could get those assets. We think that basically the largest shortage of assets in the nation right now are medical assets. And I will tell you that we feel fairly comfortable right now with the amount of medical resources that we have in our State. We do have a lot of resources as is evidenced by the fact that we already have a State medical support shelter already. It’s been initiated and it’s standing up with the ambulance strike team out of our own resources. If we have something larger, we’ll have to go back and perhaps sharpen our pencils and look at other place that we can draw resources within our own state. But we fit this time, I would say that we’re pretty comfortable with the resources that we have. Thank you, sir.
Governor Roy Cooper: (19:25)
Mike’s getting pretty comfortable saying Isaias too. Next question, please.
Speaker 6: (19:35)
Our next question is from Rose Hoban with North Carolina Health News.
Rose Hobon: (19:41)
You partially answered my question about the medical shelters, so I’m assuming that it’s at the Sandhills Regional Medical Center, but I would be interested in knowing the number of shelters in the past that you would have set up, and how that number is changed now, like how many more shelters do you have, the round of State to accommodate for the need for social distancing.
Governor Roy Cooper: (20:09)
Most of the locals are putting out shelters now and have been over the last few days. And Mike can probably give you a little bit of an inventory on that.
Director Mike Sprayberry: (20:22)
Thank you Governor, and thank you Rose. So the way that what’s happening right now is our local partners just gotten off some conference calls with our local counties. They’re in the process of setting up shelters, and what they’ll do when those shelters are activated, they will let us know about it. But so right now it’s a moving target, and the number will grow, I’m sure, throughout the day. Backed during Florence, we opened a significant number of not just local shelters, but we did open several large shelters to support the State and the counties as they came into our shelters.
Director Mike Sprayberry: (21:06)
Right now we have the opportunity to shelter via the non congregate shelters, which we would put people into hotel rooms, and there’s over 2000 of those rooms available right now. So we feel like between, we do have an inventory of congregate sheltering locations, as well as non congregate sheltering. When the Local Governments and jurisdictions are overwhelmed in their shelter and processes, that’s when they call upon us. So that’s how emergency management works, the Local Governments, they’re the first line of defense, they’ll take care of the issues at their level. When they need some assistance, they reach back up to the State and then we step in. So right now they’re holding it pretty well on their own. And we’re just going to watch and see what transpires tonight Isaias rolls through the State. And then tomorrow, if we have people that had to evacuate suddenly, I think that we’ll be well positioned to help those people out with additional sheltering options. Thank you Rose.
Governor Roy Cooper: (22:15)
Next question, please.
Speaker 6: (22:19)
We have a followup, Rose Hoban hope in North Carolina Health News.
Rose Hobon: (22:25)
A question was asked about how the State budget [inaudible 00:22:30], which we’re not exactly sure what it’s going to be give and get federal funds, but how is that changing storm planning, if at all?
Governor Roy Cooper: (22:41)
We always try to be extremely careful with taxpayer dollars, but I think taxpayers understand too that we have to be prepared for the storms, we have to be prepared to save people’s lives. So we’ve got enough funding to make sure that we get that done. It’s something that the legislature makes as a priority. We’re always careful about what we do, and don’t want to overspend, but at the same time, we’ve got to be prepared. As I’ve said earlier, we want to be able to look back and say, “My goodness, we over-prepared.” Because we don’t want to come up short when these storms go through and people’s lives are at stake. So we feel pretty good about where we are right now with funding for this. And we’ll do everything that we can to make sure that we meet the budget, and at the same time, keep people safe and healthy. Thanks. Next question.
Speaker 6: (23:44)
Our final question today will be from Richard Craver with the Winston Salem Journal.
Richard Craver: (23:53)
So Governor, this is Richard Craver with the Winston Salem Journal. The reason I’m asking you in this setting is that given what’s supposed to transpire in terms of [inaudible 00:24:04] with the phase two restrictions, is the delay or any kind of factor with the hurricane potentially delaying any kind of decision you might make that you normally would make Tuesday or Wednesday?
Governor Roy Cooper: (24:17)
That’s that’s a good question. I think you always look at events where you potentially could have lots of people together and events that could potentially spread the virus. We’re looking at the indicators that have been in place for a while. We’re looking at when people get sick, coming to the emergency room, seeing where that number is. Of course the raw number of cases. We look at our percentage positives, we look at our hospital beds, and the availability of all of that. And we’ll be making an announcement this week, probably Wednesday on that executive order. And a lot of other factors will take place.
Governor Roy Cooper: (25:01)
Okay, we will probably come back and talk with you again tomorrow after this storm, hopefully, has moved through North Carolina. Please stay safe tonight. As the Director said, try not to drive out tonight, if you can, if you can stay home while the storm is moving through our State, and we’ll, we’ll be ready for it tonight. Thank you very much.