NC partnering with 3 medical universities to better understand spread of COVID-19 across state

Many of those infected with coronavirus never showed any symptoms, Gov. Roy Cooper says.

NC partnering with 3 medical universities to better understand spread of COVID-19 across state
North Carolina is partnering with three medical universities in the state to expand research on how far COVID-19 has spread in the state. (Source: WBTV)

RALEIGH, N.C. (WBTV/WNCN) - North Carolina is partnering with three medical universities in the state to expand research on how far COVID-19 has spread in the state.

Gov. Roy Cooper announced the partnership with The University of North Carolina, East Carolina University and Duke University Friday afternoon. The research will look at what percentage of people have had COVID-19 but have had no symptoms.

“Were confident that their expertise will tell us more about how the disease is spread,” Cooper said Friday.

Health leaders say they tested 700 offenders at the prison in Neuse, North Carolina. Ninety-eight-percent of those who tested positive for the virus did not have any symptoms. This is "not good,” health leaders said, in regards to understanding the true reach of this virus.

“North Carolina has made great strides but we have more work to,” Cooper said in regards to testing. “Testing has increased in our state by 88% over the last two weeks.”

Although more tests have been conducted, Cooper says the state still needs more help from the government and more personal protective equipment for frontline workers.

“When governors are faced with global supply chain breakdowns, the federal government must help more. And they have helped some, and we appreciate it - but not enough,” Cooper said. The governor compared the situation to setting out on a 3-day camping trip with only enough supplies for one night.

WATCH LIVE | NC CORONAVIRUS: Gov. Cooper discusses how North Carolina is moving forward in response to COVID-19. The state reported more than 20 additional virus-related deaths and hundreds of new cases overnight » https://bit.ly/34HtjhS

Posted by WBTV News on Friday, April 17, 2020

Cooper was happy to announce that his plan to gradually move forward with aligned with President Donald Trump’s plan to ease into reopening the economy.

Trump outlined new guidance to governors Thursday on reopening sectors of the economy amid the COVID-19 outbreak. “You’re going to call your own shots,” Trump said to governors on the call.

The president’s announcement of guidance for the states came just days after he claimed to have “total” authority on determining when states will reopen.

“We do want to open up North Carolina, We want to open it up in the right way,” Cooper said, with putting people back to work safety.

In a statement following the call, Cooper said, “Yesterday I laid out what’s required for North Carolina’s path to gradual re-opening, and it’s good the White House has shared similar guidance, but we still need the federal government to help with testing and personal protective equipment.”

Earlier this week, Cooper ordered additional restrictions on essential businesses to maintain social distancing, including limiting the number of people who can be inside a store at once.

Cooper said in determining whether to extend his stay-at-home order or ease restrictions, he’s looking at: testing, tracing and trends.

“I think the president certainly wants to open up the economy as quickly as possible. We know that in order to safely do that, that we’ve got to provide enough testing out there so we can trace and isolate and make sure that the public is protected while we are easing restrictions, getting people back to work, getting kids back to school but doing it in a new normal,” Cooper said.

He described what that “new normal” would look like, including the likelihood that people would continue to wear masks, that restaurants would have limited seating inside, and that concerts and sporting events could go on with no crowds.

Cooper did not offer a timeline for when he thinks restrictions could be lifted. “There’s no perfect sequence or timing,” Cooper said.

Copyright 2020 WBTV. WNCN contributed to this story. All rights reserved.