RALEIGH, N.C. (WECT) – Governor Roy Cooper and the Coronavirus Task Force held a briefing on COVID-19 Tuesday afternoon.
“As new variants emerge and COVID continues to circulate, getting vaccinated and then boosted is the best way to protect yourself and get us out of this pandemic,” said Governor Roy Cooper.
North Carolina’s key metrics have all been increasing. More people are visiting the ER with symptoms, cases, the percent of tests that are positive, and hospitalizations are on the rise. In addition, the state is once again classified as red by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicating high community transmission.
In two weeks, the number of patients in the hospital with COVID has gone from from 1,000 to 1,500. ICU patients have nearly doubled in that time, and so has the percent of tests coming back positive.
Cooper says these holiday surges are why folks should get vaccinated now. NC Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mandy K. Cohen gave this advice to people ahead of the holidays.
“Get tested before attending indoor gatherings and before traveling — vaccinate, test and mask,” said Cohen.
Cohen added that vaccines are the most powerful tool to end the pandemic. Omicron is even more contagious than Delta, but a lot is unknown about the new variant.
She said that if you get your booster, it improves your ability to fight off COVID, particularly with the holidays approaching and with an increase in family gatherings.
“I am still worried about our hospital capacity,” said Cohen. “We are seeing a more contagious variant with Omicron…our focus is on vaccines and on boosters.”
Cohen’s response when asked if she was more or less concerned that the Omicron variant is more contagious but less severe, she responded that it was necessary to give it some time to see the science and the data. Meanwhile, she recommended getting protection from vaccines and boosters and recommended wearing a mask in indoor public settings.
Cohen said this will likely be her last COVID media briefing and she expressed confidence in her successor.
“The Department of Health and Human Services is in a strong position to carry out its mission,” said Cohen. “With Kody Kinsley, Governor Cooper has appointed exactly the right person to lead this effort.”
In response, Cooper thanked Dr. Cohen: “North Carolinians have benefited every day from your work.”
Moving forward, Cohen hopes the state will invest in expanding Medicare and will focus on mental health, especially for children.
Cohen was asked what she thought about mandating vaccines for school children. She responded that it was premature to consider mandates and recommends parents talk with their children to get informed.
“We need to focus on recovery efforts, especially with children: learning loss, mental health impacts,” said Cohen.
In response to a question about what the state has got right and wrong over the past year since vaccines have been available, Cooper said that what the state got right was to get many people vaccinated. He added that what he needs now, is for those who haven’t been vaccinated to get the vaccine.
“We will continue to look at the data and get recommendations from health experts; we need to continue to work on vaccinations,” said Cooper.
You can watch the news conference here.
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