Apr 30, 2020

North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper Briefing Transcript April 30

Roy Cooper April 30
RevBlogTranscriptsCOVID-19 Briefing & Press Conference TranscriptsNorth Carolina Governor Roy Cooper Briefing Transcript April 30

North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper held a press conference today on coronavirus, in an April 30 briefing. Cooper anticipates Phase 1 of reopening North Carolina next week.


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Roy Cooper: (00:00)
Thank you for joining today’s update on COVID-19 in North Carolina. As of today, we have 10,509 cases, 546 people in the hospital, and 378 deaths. As we face the reality of what this virus has taken from us, we have to remember that these are more than just numbers. The people who have died had lives and loved ones. Their families and friends are suffering in the wake of their passing and we mourn with them. Last week, we shared our three phase plan to ease restrictions in North Carolina and how we will measure progress. Right now, some are on track, but there are some potential warning signs ahead. That being said, North Carolinians have made tremendous sacrifices and it’s working. By looking out for your health and those around you, you’re making a difference. Last week, we shared details on the key indicators that we are watching to ensure that data and facts guide our decisions.

Roy Cooper: (01:17)
Those graphs are updated daily on the case count dashboard, which you can find at nc.gov/covid19. Today, Dr Mandy Cohen, our Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, will walk us through an update of our trends. We remain hopeful that the trends will be stable enough to move us into phase one next week. My message today is to stay vigilant. Right now we need people to continue following the stay at home order so that we can move into the phases of easing restrictions. Complacency could risk lives and undo these plans. The three phase plan is like a dimmer switch, letting us gradually lift restrictions so that we can get moving again without a dangerous spike in infections. This approach and the indicators we’re watching follow the guidance of the president’s coronavirus taskforce. It’s important to note that as we work to reignite the economy that you, the people are with us.

Roy Cooper: (02:39)
Even as we ease restrictions, if you don’t feel safe, it won’t work. In order for the people to be with us, there has to be a trust and a knowledge that they can feel safe when they work and shop and eat out. That’s why we’re looking at the facts and the science to guide the way. That’s why we’re asking businesses to take precautions for their employees and for their customers. We must get this economy running better, but we need working North Carolinians to trust that they will feel safe as we move forward and that’s our goal to move forward. Now for an update on those indicators, I’ll ask Dr. Cohen to walk us through the data. Dr Cohen.

Dr. Cohen: (03:36)
Thank you governor. I’m back with more graphs. Thank you for those who are tuning in to see these updates on where we are with our metrics. They will look familiar to you. They’re the same graphs that we went through last week, now with one more week of data. So if we move to the first graph, you’ll see that we continue to see that North Carolina is doing well. We have flattened the curve. We didn’t get here by accident, it’s the governor’s aggressive action and your fortitude to stay home and save lives that really has put us on this right trajectory. What we’re seeing is fewer people are getting sick at the same time and you can see the blue line of North Carolina has our trajectory doing better than a lot of the rest of the country and we need to keep that up. As we look to the trends that we’ve been following, again, we’ve been talking about testing, tracing, and trends as the things we need to look at in combination as we think about easing restrictions as we go forward.

Dr. Cohen: (04:43)
As I’ve told you before, we need to look at a combination of those metrics. So I’m going to go through those four main trends and then we’ll look at some of those capabilities. The four main trends are based on the White House guidance that told us about moving through a phased and slow reopening. Those four trends are first COVID-like syndromic cases over 14 days, second lab confirmed cases over 14 days, third positive tests as a percentage of total tests over 14 days, and then hospitalizations over 14 days. Again, no one metric will determine our path forward, but you’ll see as we walk through, we’ve made some progress in some indicators and others we need to watch very closely.

Dr. Cohen: (05:35)
That’s what I see in this first graph. So our first graph that we look at here is the trajectory of COVID-like syndromic cases. Syndromic cases is part of our surveillance work and this is when we look at people coming to our emergency room with symptoms of COVID-19 things like fever and cough and shortness breath. What we’re looking at is the percentage of those people coming with COVID-like symptoms as a percentage of the total reasons people come to the emergency room. I draw your attention to the yellow line. What you want to see in the yellow line is right towards the end, our last seven days, we start to see a little uptick there. We had been trending down from a high peak earlier in the March timeframe and now we’ve been still solely trending down, which has been good, but in this last seven days we see an uptick.

Dr. Cohen: (06:32)
Now we want to be looking at this metric over 14 days, so if you look at an average over 14 days, we’re generally level, but obviously we’re going to be following this one closely because this last seven days sees that upward tick. Remember there’s limitations to every single one of these metrics in terms of a limitation for this metric, we know this is just looking at people who are coming to the emergency room and that can be affected by a number of things and again, it is related to human behavior and why someone comes to the emergency room or not. Again, it’s why we look at these indicators as a total package. Okay let’s go on to our next graph. The next trend we’re looking at is our trajectory of cases. These are the number of new laboratory confirmed cases that we look at day over day.

Dr. Cohen: (07:23)
I want to draw your attention to the yellow line. That yellow line is a seven day rolling average that helps us understand the trajectory we are on. What you can see in this, while we were slightly level, we have been increasing over the last number of days and weeks. We are seeing an uptick in the number of new laboratory cases we have seen and in fact you can see the last blue data point is today we are announcing 561 new cases today, which is a high for North Carolina as you can see from this graph it is our biggest day over day increase in new laboratory confirmed cases. Again, every data point has limitations. We know that we are only capturing laboratory confirmed cases. We know that there’s more COVID-19 out in our communities than gets captured by what’s in our lab data. As we test more, which has been our intention all along, we want to increase testing.

Dr. Cohen: (08:29)
We know there’s more COVID- 19 out there, so we know we’re going to pick up more cases. So how do we think about an increasing number of cases in the context of more testing? That’s what the next graph is going to help us do. As I switch over to our next trend, this helps us give a look at the percentage of positive tests in relation to the total number of tests we’re doing and we want to see a downward trend in this trend. That’s exactly what we were seeing, which is good news. So I draw your attention again to the yellow line. So the yellow line again is a seven day rolling average of our percent of positive tests as a percentage of total and what we see it’s going down, which means we’re probably picking up more cases as we go because we’re testing more, but that percent positive is coming down and it’s a really good thing.

Dr. Cohen: (09:27)
We’ve been going from about 2,500 test run per day about a week or two ago. Over the last number of days, we’ve been seeing trends that are closer to 5,000 test today. In fact yesterday we saw 6,000 tests that were reported. So we’re testing more and we’re seeing this trend go in the right direction. So that is good news. I’m going to go to our last trend, which is about hospitalizations. Hospitalizations another important metric because again, we’ve been working hard to flatten the curve so fewer people get sick at the same time and we don’t overwhelm our medical system. While you can see from this graph, we’ve been largely level in the amount of hospital beds that we have been using for COVID-19 and that’s a good thing.

Dr. Cohen: (10:18)
So again, drawing your attention to the yellow line, we’ve been largely leveled in the 400 to 500 people hospitalized day over day. Again, there’s a limitation to this metric as well. This is not new people hospitalized day over day. It’s the total bed count for how many people are in beds on each given day. That’s how the data gets reported to us by the hospitals. Again, what we’re seeing as this is largely leveling and that’s a good thing. Alright so let’s put these all together and then also talk about our capacity. So when I look at our four trends together, and I think about where are we today? We saw that the trajectory-

Dr. Cohen: (11:03)
… of our COVID-like syndromic cases over 14 days had an uptake in the last seven days, so it maybe was level over the last 14 days. So we got to an X red mark for that one. In terms of trajectory of cases over 14 days, we still see that those are increasing. However, we know that it’s because we are doing more testing. So our third metric, the trajectory of positive tests, got a green check. So two reds, a green, and then our trajectory for hospitalizations gives us a second green check. When we look at our capacity, we want to make sure again that we are increasing testing and that has certainly been happening, that we have been seeing an inappropriate uptick in our testing. We’ve surpassed 4000 tests for six of the last nine days and again we had 6000 tests reported done yesterday.

Dr. Cohen: (12:02)
And as we reported Monday of this week in terms of contact tracing, we launched the new Community Contact Tracing Collaborative. That’s already started to work to hiring, so that work is ongoing. In terms of personal protective equipment, this is also data we post on our dashboard daily. You can see that the state continues to have less than a 30 day supply of gowns and N95s. Again, that is a trend we’re seeing across the nation. Seeing it here in North Carolina as well, still having issues with gowns and N95s, as we look at personal protective equipment. But surgical masks, gloves, face masks, other than face shields, doing well on that. So as I put this all together, I would say the overall picture is mixed but we remain optimistic that these trends will be stable enough to move into phase one next week.

Dr. Cohen: (12:56)
We’re going to continue to watch them closely, and as some data that was released this week by some researchers from Duke and Nova [Sai 00:00:13:06], RTI and UNC, I think they warned us as the Governor said earlier that complacency is not our friend. We need to be sure that we are keeping up these actions. We need to be sure we are slowing the spread of the virus, and the good news is we know we can do this. We know how to stay home to protect our loved ones and the community and we know by doing this it will put us on that track to easing those restrictions and moving forward as planned. So, again, we remain optimistic that trends will be stable enough to move us into phase one next week. With that, I’ll turn it back over to the Governor. Thank you.

Roy Cooper: (13:50)
Thank you, Dr. Cohen. It’s important that we continue to look at the data and the evidence and the facts to guide our way. And though we know lives have been forever changed by this pandemic there are signs of hope. An experimental drug tested right here at the University of North Carolina shows the promise of easing symptoms of the COVID-19 and I want to thank the researchers for their work. It shows the importance of strong research and science at our state universities. Learning about new drugs and vaccine development is encouraging, but they will take time. Our job is to do what we know works right now. Keep our physical distance, sanitize, stay at home. I know this is a difficult time for many people but there is hope and there is a plan and it is based on data and science and facts. It prioritizes the health and safety of our communities while focusing on ways to jumpstart our economy safely. Doing it the right way will give people confidence in institutions and each other that it is safe to move forward.

Roy Cooper: (15:12)
Along with Dr. Cohen, with me today is our Emergency Management Director Mike Sprayberry, our Sign Language Interpreters are Monica McGee and Connie Jo Hutchison, and behind the scenes as always, Jackie and Jasmine Mativier are our Spanish language interpreters. So now I will recognize Mike Sprayberry. Mike.

Mike Sprayberry: (15:39)
Thank you, Governor and thank you for your leadership. Today is day 52 of our State Emergency Operation Center’s COVID-19 response. FEMA has initiated a campaign to distribute cloth face mass to North Carolina’s critical infrastructure sector workers in places where social distancing is difficult to maintain. FEMA will provide cloth masks to infrastructure workers, mostly in the energy and food sectors who do not need medical grade mask for their daily work. These masks will be shipped directly to the companies in the coming days. North Carolina Emergency Management will also receive an additional allotment of around 149,000 cloth masks, which will be distributed to workers in the food supply chain. At the same time, our procurement of medical grade personal protective equipment continues with another $5.8 million in orders yesterday. We received shipments of gloves, hair covers, masks, and other items, and we delivered shipments to 50 counties.

Mike Sprayberry: (16:43)
On behalf of Public Safety Secretary Eric Cooks, I want to publicly thank our state’s first responders, law enforcement, emergency management, and correctional officers for the great work they continue to do every day in our communities. We’re asking a lot of our public safety professionals right now and we all owe them our gratitude and respect. Telecommunicators at our state’s 911 centers continue to do excellent work as well. But today I need to issue another reminder on their behalf. Please refrain from calling 911 to report social distancing or stay at home violations. We need to keep emergency lines open for true emergencies. 911 centers are once again getting too many non-emergency calls. This creates a risk for everyone and could slow lifesaving help to someone who needs it.

Mike Sprayberry: (17:35)
As important as response, I wanted to discuss recovery briefly. North Carolina Emergency Management’s recovery Section and the UNC School of Government have collaborated to produce a series of online tutorials that produce helpful information for local governments about the FEMA reimbursement process and the FEMA grants portal. The link for this tutorial series will be posted on our website and will be expanded on an ongoing basis as local governments and eligible nonprofits work through the COVID-19 recovery. There are also resources specifically targeted at our rural communities. The U.S. Department of Agriculture and federal partners have programs that can be used to provide immediate and longterm assistance to rural communities affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. These programs can support recovery efforts for rural residents, businesses, and communities.

Mike Sprayberry: (18:32)
USDA has developed a resource guide for state, local, and tribal leaders and other stakeholders that is also posted on the state COVID-19 website. As always, don’t forget to look out for your family, friends, and neighbors and to call your loved ones daily. And remember, we all need to stay at home and stay distanced to stop the spread in order to improve the trend lines that Secretary Cohen shared with us today. Let’s focus on that and we’ll get through this together as one team, one mission, and one family. Thank you very much and thank you, Governor.

Roy Cooper: (19:11)
Thank you, Mike. I’m grateful for the people working at Emergency Management, yes, fighting this pandemic but also doing other things to help people. Our North Carolina Office of Recovery and Resilience in Emergency Management headed by Laura Hockshead, they are working night and day on getting help to people who were victims of Hurricane Matthew and Florence and being tremendously successful in all of that, even in the midst of this pandemic. I’m very grateful for all of them as well. We’ll now take questions from the media and if you would identify yourself and your organization please. And we’ll take the first question.

Speaker 1: (19:54)
The question will be from Jonathan Drew, Associated Press.

Jonathan Drew: (19:59)
Hi, this is Jonathan Drew from the Associated Press. I think this one maybe is for Director Sprayberry or Secretary Cohen. Can you tell us what the latest numbers are at [inaudible 00:20:10] in terms of positive cases, hospitalizations, and deaths?

Roy Cooper: (20:16)
Dr. Cohen.

Dr. Cohen: (20:20)
Thanks so much for the question. I think you wanted to know where our current hospitalizations and our current cases are. So as I look at our trends overall for North Carolina, I see that we have a slight uptick in some of our surveillance data. Our overall cases, while they are going up, we’re testing more. So, as a package, I think we’re basically level in terms of our new cases and where I think our trajectory is in terms of cases and testing, and then our hospitalizations are also level. So, again, we see some things in our surveillance that may indicate that we need to really be watching that and watching the rest of our numbers but overall feel optimistic as we head into next week to potentially be able to start a phase one, which is easing some additional restrictions that have been in place. Thank you.

Roy Cooper: (21:17)
Next question.

Speaker 1: (21:20)
Katie Peralta, Charlotte Agenda.

Katie Peralta: (21:26)
Hey, Governor Cooper. This Katie Peralta with the Charlotte agenda. I had a question. I think this is probably for Mandy Cohen about different sort of testing. I’m wondering where the state stands on antibody tests and whether or not that is going to be a metric that the state leans on when it comes to considering certain reopening restrictions?

Roy Cooper: (21:49)
We’ve spend a lot of our time on diagnostic testing that gives us the information about who has COVID-19 now and so that we can provide treatment and it gives us an idea of where we are. I think antibody tests …

Roy Cooper: (22:03)
… are going to be important as well. We’re waiting for good ones to hit the market. Some of them already have, and that kind of testing is going to provide us a broader overview of where we are in this pandemic, and it will be important information for us to know. But, Dr. Cohen, if you would want to add something to that? She’s good with that. Next question, please.

Speaker 2: (22:31)
[ Michael Highland 00:00:32], CVS 17.

Michael Highland: (22:36)
Hi, governor, this is Michael Highland from CVS 17. Given that the stay at home order ends in less than 14 days, is it your opinion that we could begin phase one without seeing the 14 day reduction in some of these indicators, and instead simply have to accept that the virus is with us, and we may see some kind of sustained level in these indicators going forward?

Roy Cooper: (22:58)
Thanks for that question, Michael. We are hopeful that we can enter phase one, as the order expires on May 8th. And remember that we talked about these indicators being viewed as a whole, and how they affect each other. For example, the number of positive cases, which is something that the White House told us we needed to do over a 14 day period, needing to be in a downward trajectory.

Roy Cooper: (23:25)
We’ve added the indication of percentage of positive tests, because we know that the more testing we do, which is another criteria that we’re looking at and that we’re making progress on. The more tests we do, the more positives we’re going to have. So the percentage of overall positive tests is going to be an important indicator for us, and that’s headed downward.

Roy Cooper: (23:46)
So that’s good, and I think one thing Dr. Cohen is worried about, is are the pre-COVID symptoms that people are exhibiting in our emergency rooms, which is a really early forecaster of potentially more cases of COVID, and it’s why she wants to keep an eye on that. But I think we have to look at all of these indicators, as a whole, before we move into phase one. And I think that we are, at this point, hopeful that we can. Thank you, next question.

Speaker 2: (24:23)
[Jonathan Alexander 00:02:24], News and Observer.

Jonathan Alexander: (24:28)
Hi, Governor Cooper. My name is Jonathan Alexander with the News and Observer. A couple of questions. I’m wondering, how do you respond to communities and businesses who are deciding to defy the stay at home orders? And also, when do you anticipate releasing COVID-19 cases by zip code?

Roy Cooper: (24:52)
Well first, I think the vast majority of North Carolinians are abiding by the stay at home order, because they care about each other. They know that the sooner we can get our trajectories going in the right direction, the sooner that we can reignite our economy. We have a lot of businesses working now, and a lot of people out there working now, but many of them are doing it in a socially distant way and are doing it safely. And so, I think that’s positive.

Roy Cooper: (25:24)
I have concerns when people are blatantly ignoring rules, because it can cost lives. This is truly a matter of life and death, and when people do things to transfer the virus to other people and cause confusion, then that’s highly concerning. So, we believe that people, for the most part, will continue abiding by the order and will help us as we work through these phases, to get back to where we want to be with our new normal, and people back at work and children back at school.

Roy Cooper: (26:03)
I do see that for us in the future. We need though, to make sure that people feel safe doing those things. Because, you can remove all restrictions, but a lot of people are going to still have concerns about their safety. So if they know that we are relying on the science, the evidence, the facts and that we are basing our decision on those, so that their safety is of the top priority, then people are going to feel better about moving forward. And I think that, that will make our economy even better, because the people are going to be with us. And that’s why we are using these three phases, to make sure people understand that we’re looking at the science. As for releasing positives by zip codes, well Dr. Cohen, I’ll let you take that one.

Dr. Cohen: (26:59)
Thank you, for that question. Yes, we have been working to get our information together, so we can be able to release information by zip code. We do know that we have a lot of zip codes here in North Carolina, that have very few people, so we will be working to make sure we can protect the privacy of those folks who are in some of our much, much smaller zip code areas, and then putting out as much data as we can by zip code. So stay tuned for that.

Roy Cooper: (27:29)
Thank you. Next question, please.

Speaker 2: (27:33)
[ Paige Peroso 00:27:34], WBTV.

Paige Peroso: (27:37)
Hey, good afternoon, Governor Cooper. This is Paige Peroso from WBTV. A question regarding Gaston County’s decision yesterday morning, announcing they are allowing businesses to reopen and backtracking. Some saying this was just a symbolic message. What was your response to that? And then, do you have a message today for other county governments looking at similar messages to the community?

Roy Cooper: (28:03)
That action created confusion in a pandemic, and that’s dangerous. They acknowledged in their own order, that our state order was still in effect. So, there was no need to cause that kind of confusion. I’m eager to get the economy reignited. We need to do it in the right way, and I was pleased to see all of the municipalities in Gaston County come forward, and say they want to continue to abide by the order and do the right thing. I think if we continue to work hard to flatten this curve, and to keep our trends where we want to go, we can begin this phase one process next week and begin to reignite our economy in a positive way, having the people coming along with us and making sure we’re doing it safely. Thank you. Next question, please.

Speaker 2: (29:09)
Ken Smith, WRAL.

Ken Smith: (29:14)
Ken Smith, WRAL. Governor, thanks for taking my call. As we look ahead to next week, what are you most hopeful for?

Roy Cooper: (29:27)
I’ll tell you what kind of things give me hope in North Carolina. It’s seeing the grandchild drawing a picture of grandmother and holding it up at a wind of a nursing home, talking to her grandmother through the window, showing that she loves her. I appreciate that tech worker who is working from home, but says that she’ll do childcare for our frontline healthcare workers. I appreciate that neighbor who is doing shopping for that at-risk senior, and putting the groceries on the doorstep every week.

Roy Cooper: (30:04)
Those are the things that give me hope about North Carolina, and that we’re going to be even better in the end. But as we get into next week, what I’m hopeful for is that our trends will be right, so that we can move into the first phase and ease the restrictions and the stay at home order, so people can do more things and that we could do more to ignite our economy while still trying to maintain people’s safety. And that I’m hopeful that our trends will continue to go well, so that we can move into phase two and do even more to ignite our economy in a safe way. And I believe that, that can happen, and we look forward to that time. Thanks. Next question, please.

Speaker 2: (30:57)
[Andrea Blanford 00:30:59], ABC 11.

Angela Blanford: (31:02)
Hi, governor. It’s Andrea Blanford with ABC 11. With hurricane preparedness week coming up next week, what kind of thought has already been put into how our emergency response would change, if we have a hurricane threatening our coast in the near future? And how would the state handle things like shelters, social distancing there, people’s financial ability to evacuate? Thank you.

Roy Cooper: (31:28)
We already have plans to be ready for a hurricane, if it happens. Our emergency operation center has been here through this entire pandemic process, but they are still doing the things that they need to do, to get ready in the event we have a hurricane. And to understand, that our response would have to be a little bit different, that we would have to think more about protecting our first responders, that we would have to think more about how we shelter people. Knowing that people gathered in one place can cause significant problems for spreading the virus.

Roy Cooper: (32:07)
So already we’re thinking about how those kinds of plans would be altered. The emergency operations center, while we’ve been in the pandemic, has already dealt with some tornadoes and some storms. So, we have people here who know what to do. I think we have one of the best, if not the best, emergency operations in the country. And we hope and pray that, that hurricane does not come this summer. We have our hands full in our state, and we want them to stay away. But in the event that it does come, we will be ready for it and we will be ready to handle it in the midst of this pandemic, which we won’t know will make it more difficult, but we’ll be ready if we need to be. Thanks. Next question.

Speaker 3: (33:03)
Derek Dellinger, Fox 46 in Charlotte.

Derek Dellinger: (33:06)
Yes. This is Derek Dellinger with Fox 46 in Charlotte. I have two questions and more specifically for Dr. Mandy Cohen. We heard that number, 10,509 cases. Is that the number of cases that are actively within the state or how much of that are those that have recovered from it? In addition to that, the second question I have, are you worried that people are not going to the hospital that should be, that have COVID 19 and that might be affecting some of the numbers you’re seeing on the grass?

Roy Cooper: (33:34)
Those numbers are the total number of positive cases of confirmed tests, and some of those people have recovered. We know, however, that this is the tip of the iceberg. We know a lot more people actually have COVID 19 out there and it’s one of the reasons we’re trying to increase our testing. Yeah, we’re always concerned if someone needs hospitalization that they don’t come. I think most people who need hospitalization who have COVID 19 are going to the hospital and getting treatment.

Roy Cooper: (34:11)
We’re a little more worried now about people who have other chronic conditions that may have concerns about going to get healthcare, whether it be in a hospital or not. And I know that Dr. Cohen and her team are working with the healthcare providers across the state to ramp up the effort to make sure that people stay healthy and deal with other diseases and other chronic conditions and preventative health care, which has been lagging a bit since people have been so focused on COVID 19. And already the team is working through that. Some of our hospitals are starting to do more kinds of surgeries like colonoscopies and other things to make sure we do our preventative care and that we take care of people’s needs at the same time. Dr. Cohen, would you want to add to that?

Dr. Cohen: (35:09)
Thank you. And just on the recovery piece, while we know folks are recovering from COVID 19. I have my own family members and other states that have recovered. The hard part about creating a recovery number is that it’s hard to know because every case is so different in terms of how long people are sick for. It’s hard to know how you judge recovery. Now, we’ve been doing that work for a while, trying to figure out so that we have the same numbers that, for example, the CDC will use. I know our teams have been talking to our federal partners about how we’re going to define that and so we’re working hard. I think we’ve seen some studies that have shown that some people can be sick for as few as five to seven days where there are others who are sick up to 40 days. And so how do you define exactly when the majority of folks are recovering?

Dr. Cohen: (36:00)
So that’s the math and the work with our data scientists that we’re going through right now. So stay tuned. We hope to be able to share some more on the recovery front as we work with the CDC and get their guidance on how to best define this number. And I’d just echo what the governor said is that we want folks who need healthcare to take care of all of their healthcare issues. We’ve been making sure that folks know about all the different ways they can access care, first through telehealth and to work with their doctors and others to get some of their routine healthcare issues taken care of. We don’t want those to get worse and to turn into a crisis so that they have to go into the hospital or get some sort of emergency surgery.

Dr. Cohen: (36:43)
So take care of yourself. And we know the more you take care of your chronic diseases like diabetes or high blood pressure, the better you’re going to fare in terms of fighting off COVID 19. The folks who we’re seeing have bad reactions to COVID 19 are folks with chronic diseases that are not well controlled. So if you have diabetes, this is never a better time to talk to your doctor, getting your sugar under control, making sure you’re taking your blood pressure medicine every day, and making sure that all of us are eating well, getting our exercise. So take care of yourself and stay home to save lives. Thank you

Roy Cooper: (37:22)
Thank you. Next question.

Speaker 3: (37:23)
Kenlyn [Karana 00:04:28], Greensboro News & Record.

Speaker 4: (37:31)
Hi. Thank you for taking my call. This is Kenlyn Karana with the News & Record in Greensboro. I was wondering when does the state anticipate testing staff and patients at all nursing and assisted living homes and how does that rank in priorities for broad COVID 19 testing when that’s available. Thank you.

Roy Cooper: (37:52)
We’re doing everything we can to ramp up the total number of tests and obviously confined living facilities like nursing homes are a place where we want to go in and test. If one person is positive, we want to be able to go in and test everyone. And I think testing in our nursing facilities would rank very high on making sure that staff and patients there are tested. And Dr. Cohen, would you want to add a word or two?

Dr. Cohen: (38:25)
Yes. Thank you governor and thanks for the question. Yes. So we have been working closely with if a skilled nursing facility does have an outbreak, two or more cases, our local health departments have been working with folks to make sure we can test everyone already. So that is already happening and we’re working with folks to do that kind of testing. We have to remember that testing is a moment in time. Right? It’s going to give you information about do you have COVID 19 virus in your body right now? So then you have to think about, well, what is the time period at which you need to repeat that testing?

Dr. Cohen: (38:58)
So we want to make sure we are still focused on testing folks that may have had exposure. So when we see a nursing home with an outbreak, two or more cases, we know there’s been an exposure and so that’s why we go in and test. We want to be sure that we are still tracking to those exposures. Otherwise, we won’t know how often do we do repetitive testing. And so we are still continuing to prioritize testing to those who have had exposure, to our frontline healthcare workers, and particularly our hospitalized patients and others. So we’ll continue to prioritize that testing, but it will be focused on outbreaks as it is already. Thank you.

Roy Cooper: (39:41)
Thank you. Next question please.

Speaker 3: (39:46)
Final question today will be from Kim King, WLOS.

Kim King: (39:52)
Good afternoon governor. I’m calling from Asheville, WLOS. We have received so many emails from people who are unemployed. They cannot get through on the 800 numbers, both the unemployment benefits 800 number from North Carolina and the federal CARES number. How many people do you have taking calls and what is your plan to try to help these folks? They are crying to us for help.

Roy Cooper: (40:20)
It is unacceptable for a person who is unemployed to not be able to get through and I have ordered the Employment Security Commission to increase the number of people who are handling telephone calls and increase the capability online to take claims. We have getting close to 400,000 people who have been paid claims and getting close to a billion dollars having gone out already. But there are a lot more people who need to get paid and to have their calls answered and to make sure that their claims are taken care of.

Roy Cooper: (41:04)
Every one of these claims represents a family on the edge and they need to be attended to as quickly as possible, and we’re going to see to this. This is a problem that’s nationwide because you have to remember this is something they’re dealing with a hundred times the amount of claims that they had before, but they’re making progress. They’re putting more people in the call centers, and they’re going to continue to push into next week to hopefully get all of these claims taken care of soon and to get people the money as quickly as they can get it to them. Appreciate you guys joining us today and we look forward to coming back again and updating you. Thank you.

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