See How NC is Measuring Up

A lot has certainly gone on since my last update, but today there was some sobering news and new requirements that I wanted to make you aware of. As we have reopened, there are some states that are seeing a rise in the number of positive COVID-19 cases. All states have been able to ramp up testing which explains some of the increase in numbers. However, the percentage of positive cases has also been increasing. Other metrics that are followed, such as the number of hospitalizations in each state, are rising as well. Currently, the states that have high infection rates are North Carolina, Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, South Carolina, Washington, Utah, and Texas. High infection rates can be defined as states where 10 people per 100,000 have tested positive on average for seven days or where 10% of the total population has tested positive on average. States that have been able to stabilize and want to prevent a resurgence such as New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut have announced a required 14-day quarantine for anyone traveling from states with high infection rates.

For North Carolina there has been an increase in community spread and Gov. Cooper along with Dr. Mandy Cohen announced in today’s press conference that we will remain in Phase 2 for 3 more weeks until 5pm, July 17th. Dr. Fauci testified before Congress yesterday that the next couple of weeks are critical for our country in our fight against COVID-19. It was announced today that face coverings would be a requirement for North Carolina. This means that people must wear a mask when in public places, indoors or outdoors, where physical distancing of 6 feet from other people who aren’t in the same household or residence isn’t possible. They will be required for all employees and customers of retail businesses and restaurants, personal care and grooming, employees of child care centers and camps; as well as workers in manufacturing, construction, meat processing, and agriculture settings. There are exceptions including people with medical conditions and children under 11, people who are at home, and people who are walking or otherwise exercising outside when not within six feet of others. 

One question I hear a lot is how to eat at a restaurant and wear a mask. Many restaurants are offering curb-side pick-up or delivery as a safe option. Some are following the guidelines to allow for 6 feet between tables, touchless menu options, and making sure their employees are following hand washing and face covering guidelines. Here are some tips for eating out at a restaurant for those that choose to do so:

Tips for eating at a Restaurant while wearing a mask:

  1. Arrive wearing a mask
  2. When the food comes, take your mask off: Experts agree that taking your mask off and putting it back on between bites would actually be counterproductive and could increase the risk of spreading coronavirus from your mask to your hands.
  3. Remove your mask safely: Handle the straps of the mask instead of grabbing the fabric that covers your face.
  4. Bring a bag for your mask: When you remove your mask, place it in a clean receptacle such as a paper bag, so any moisture that remains on it has time to dry. Don’t just place your mask on the table or in your purse.
  5. Put the mask back on right after eating

**Restaurants may have specific guidelines based on their location and risk of exposure to their employees.

It will be an awkward task to enforce the face covering requirement. However, citations can be written to businesses or organizations that fail to enforce the requirement to wear face coverings/masks. Businesses are entitled to rely on their customers or patrons’ statements about whether or not they meet exemptions for wearing a mask. They will not be considered in violation of the Order if they rely on a customer or patron’s statement. Law enforcement personnel cannot criminally enforce the face covering requirements against individual workers, customers, or patrons. However, if a business or organization does not allow entry to a worker, customer, or patron because that person refuses to wear a mask or leave the premises, then law enforcement personnel may enforce trespassing laws.

There is a very helpful Frequently Asked Questions section about the current Safer at Home Phase 2 and requirements for mask wearing on the NC DHHS website. The link is: https://files.nc.gov/governor/documents/files/EO-147-FAQ.pdf

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human services website has a ton of other useful information too. I have been regularly checking the trends of daily cases, daily tests, daily number of people currently hospitalized, availability of contact tracing, as well as stock of PPE to gauge where we stand on moving on to the next phase. You can google NC dashboard and the link pops up easily. 

This week they’ve added a section “Outbreaks and Clusters” that will tell you which counties and facilities have outbreaks in congregate living settings such as nursing homes as well as ongoing clusters in child care and school settings. It breaks the number down into the number of cases, infected staff, infected residents and children, and other metrics. A cluster is defined as a minimum of 5 laboratory confirmed cases within a 14-day period and plausible epidemiologic linkage. An outbreak is defined as 2 or more laboratory confirmed cases. There have been guidelines released about returning to school in the fall, however, these may change based on our metric trends. 

I am keeping this update short because there is so much on the news and there is an overwhelming amount of information that is coming each day. Remember that you can find out where to get tested at the Find My Testing Place link on the Department of Health website (or just call or text me and I’ll send you the link to the list). The Novant Health Michael Jordan Clinic in west Charlotte has ceased normal operations and is operating a drive up COVID-19 testing for anyone, kids included, you don’t need an order or to have symptoms to get tested. Results of tests are taking anywhere from 2 to 5 days on average. Please call before going anywhere to get tested so you know their criteria and hours as that changes for each of the sites. 

Overall, we’d like to be proactive in preventing hot spots and surges of this virus instead of being reactive to occurrences. This is possible with our greatly increased testing capabilities and if people follow stay at home guidelines (in regions where health experts recommend it), keep washing hands, and wear face coverings. A vaccine will hopefully be available at the end of this year and we can start utilizing it in 2021. Please keep looking after your neighbors, friends, family, and community. This is a hard time for everybody and devastating for some. There are a lot of resources and people that want to help, so please reach out if you need it.