North Carolina coronavirus deaths top state flu deaths for entire season
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Coronavirus-related deaths have surpassed this season’s flu deaths in North Carolina in less than a month.
Mandy Cohen, Secretary of Health and Human Services, announced Monday that North Carolina has had 167 flu deaths since flu season began in September 2019, and 179 COVID-19 deaths since March 21, when the first virus-related death was reported. The first confirmed coronavirus case in North Carolina was reported on March 3.
“So in less than a month, we’ve already surpassed flu deaths for this year,” Cohen said.
Cohen says the death rate would have been worse without the aggressive action that was taken to slow the spread. “We’ve done hard and important work," Cohen said.
Health officials reported a total of 6,764 cases of coronavirus across 93 counties Monday, according to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.
The latest number includes 1,210 cases in Mecklenburg County, with 29 deaths, according to NCDHHS.
“COVID-19 is the leading cause of death in the United States," Cohen said during a press conference Monday afternoon.
NCDHHS has reported multiple outbreaks at Mecklenburg County nursing homes and residential care facilities.
During a press conference last week, Gov. Roy Cooper said in order to ease the current restrictions, North Carolina needs to make progress in three areas: testing, tracing and monitoring COVID-19 trends.
“This virus is going to be with us until there is a vaccine, which may be a year or more away," Cooper said. "As we ease restrictions, we are going to enter a new normal.”
“Our efforts to flatten the curve are working. And that means we have saved lives. The stay at home orders are working, but we know our current situation is not sustainable in the long run,” Cooper continued. “I know people are wondering, where do we go from here?”
Cooper said that experts say it would be “dangerous to lift restrictions all at once.” He said officials have to monitor for troubling signs of a spike in cases that could overwhelm our hospitals and risk lives.
Health officials say that 1 percent of those infected by the coronavirus in North Carolina are under 18, 6 percent are 18 to 24, 39 percent are between ages of 25 and 49 years old, 28 percent are between ages 50 and 64 and 25 percent are older than 65 years old.
As of Monday, 79,484 tests had been conducted. At least 373 patients were still hospitalized Monday, a drop from the 465 patients hospitalized Sunday.
An accurate number of coronavirus recoveries has not been released in North Carolina. Cohen says scientists are working to determine a recovery number, but the problem is that some may define a recovery differently.
“How are we defining recovery? So how do we know – how do we document a recovery number?"Cohen said, restating a question that was asked to her. "We don’t all define recovery the same.”
Financial aid is available to parents and caregivers who are essential workers and who meet the following criteria:
- Their income is below 300 percent of the poverty line;
- They are an essential worker fighting COVID-19 or protecting the health and safety of communities; and
- They feel they have no other viable child care options available to them.
Child care teachers and staff that work in programs serving essential workers will also see bonuses in their pay in April and May. NCDHHS will pay child care programs staying open to serve essential workers $300 per month for each full-time teacher and $200 per month for each full-time non-teaching staff member, including administrators, janitors and other support staff.
Bonus payments will be paid by the child care programs to all eligible staff during their regular pay periods. Part-time workers are also eligible for prorated bonus awards.
If you are an essential worker and need help with child care, you can call a hotline at 1-888-600-1685 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.
During a press conference, Cooper announced he had signed an executive order to prohibit utility companies from shutting off services to people who are unable to pay.
“I know it’s hard, but prevention is still the single most important thing you can do right now,” Cooper said. “If we don’t slow the infection, our medical system will be stretched beyond its capacity.”
“I can’t stress it enough - your actions matter. Staying at home matters. Staying home will save lives,” Cohen continued. “I know this is really, really hard. Most of us have never lived through a time where we’ve had to take this kind of collective action to change our way of life in a matter of a couple days. In many ways this is like a war, right here at home, and our enemy is this virus.”
Cohen said if you’re leaving your house, it should be limited to getting groceries, picking up medication or going for a walk outside. If you’re working at an essential business, Cohen urged, you still need to follow social distancing guidelines.
North Carolina is considered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to have widespread transmission.
“Because no one is immune and there’s no vaccination the best tool we have to slow the spread is keeping our physical distance and staying home,” North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said.
That’s why the governor issued the statewide stay-at-home order. The order went into effect at 5 p.m. on Monday, March 30.
“It truly is a matter of life and death,” Cooper said. “Even with the uncertainty of these times and the new pace of our lifestyles, we know that the good parts of our lives as North Carolinians will return. We fight this disease now so that we are better able to defeat it in the future.”
Cooper addressed the virus as a “cruel and contagious sickness,” after North Carolina announced its first coronavirus-related deaths.
The first reported death involved a person in their 70s from from Cabarrus County. That person died on March 24 from complications associated with the virus. The patient had several underlying medical conditions.
“Today is a stark reminder that we must take this disease seriously,” Cooper said after the state’s first coronavirus-related death.
Cohen pointed out that some of our worst flu seasons only needed 2 percent of hospital-level care.
All public K-12 schools will remain closed until May 15 under an executive order signed by Cooper.
Cooper said that despite not getting all the coronavirus tests the state requested, North Carolina has found more ways to get people who need it tested.
Sprayberry said North Carolinians can still call 211 with any questions related to the coronavirus or assistance.
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