12/8/20: GOVERNOR ORDERS PEOPLE TO STAY HOME, SOME BUSINESSES TO CLOSE, BETWEEN 10 p.m. AND 5 a.m.; ON-SITE ALCOHOL SALES TO END AT 9 p.m. Plus Dare County Deceptively Improves to Yellow Tier of COVID-19 Risk.

“Dig deep and keep tapping into that North Carolina spirit to keep each other safe,” Governor Cooper urged.

Starting 5 p.m. Friday, North Carolinians must stay home and certain businesses and facilities must close from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m., pursuant to Governor Roy Cooper’s latest COVID-19-related executive order, which imposes “new actions to slow the rapid spread of the virus,” he said today at a briefing

New Executive Order 181 also further restricts alcohol sales for on-site consumption, requiring them to end at 9 p.m., two hours earlier than the current alcohol-sales “curfew” in effect. Resumption of such sales remains at 7 a.m.

The new restrictions, described as a “modified” Stay-at-Home order for citizens and a “night-time public closure period” for businesses and other venues, are being taken in order to curtail social gatherings, the Governor said, which are driving the recent spike in new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations statewide.

“The later in the evening you go,” Governor Cooper explained in response to a reporter’s question about the rationale for what she called a curfew, “the larger these gatherings can be.” Further, with the drinking of alcohol and late-night socializing, “people get uninhibited,” he said, and less inclined to observe COVID-19 precautions. 

“[We are trying] to chip away at those times” of close and crowded social gatherings, the Governor said, by ordering people to stay home.

Workplace social events and functions, such as office holiday parties, are obvious targets of the night-time public closure period. In fact, the order specifically states that “events or convenings outside the home must end or pause no later than 10 p.m.”

“You should limit going out to just essential activities,” said Dr. Mandy Cohen, Secretary of the N.C. Dept. of Health and Human Services, who shared the podium.

The Governor cited Massachusetts and Ohio as having had “some success” with similar measures.

But he also cautioned that “We have other things that we can do. We have more tools . . . to fight the spread of the virus,” if these actions do not result in a reduction of the key COVID-19 metrics, all of which have “significantly increased,” according to Dr. Cohen.

Businesses that must close during the night-time public closure period include restaurants; bars and lounges; fitness centers; movie theaters; and entertainment venues, among others.

Capacity limits for restaurants, retail establishments, and other businesses, however, remain the same, as do the limits on permissible social gatherings indoors (10 people) and outdoors (50).

The executive order, which has a number of exceptions to the new rules, will expire at 5 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 8, 2021, unless it is rescinded, modified, or extended.

Chief among the exceptions is one that exempts retail businesses that sell groceries, medications, health-care supplies, and fuel. Restaurants, breweries, distilleries, and wineries also may continue take-out and delivery service after 10 p.m.

We refer you to the FAQs for Executive Order 181 for answers to any questions you may have: EO 181 FAQ (nc.gov)

The exceptions to the modified Stay-at-Home order include leaving during overnight hours to:

*Travel to or from a place of work;

*Perform work at a workplace when the worker’s presence is required by the worker’s employer;

*Travel for work purposes;

*Obtain food, medical care, fuel, or social services;

*Travel from a business that closed at or after 10 p.m.’

*Travel to a business that will open at 5 a.m.’

*Travel to take care of a family member, friend, or pet in another household;

*Travel to or from a religious service;

*Travel necessary for personal safety; and

*Travel into or out of the state.

You may view the entire Executive Order 181 at EO181-Modified-Stay-at-Home-Early-Closure-Order.pdf (nc.gov). It is quite unwieldy because it incorporates many sections from previous executive orders that remain in effect. 

‘I AM VERY WORRIED’

“I am very worried,” Secretary Cohen said again today about COVID-19 conditions statewide, reiterating her comments in a statement issued Saturday and during another a briefing she held alone last week. “This virus is highly contagious and dangerous.”

The number of new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations statewide on a single day has doubled in a month, she noted, and record highs have been set for both metrics. Not only are COVID-19 hospitalizations at an all-time high, record numbers of people are in the state’s intensive care units for treatment, Dr. Cohen said.

“Hospitals are feeling the strain,” she said, “and this is worrisome.”

According to data cited by a reporter at the briefing, researchers at Duke University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have concluded that the state’s “hospitals are six weeks away from being at [full patient] capacity.”

Last Saturday, 6,018 cases were reported in a 24-hour period by the NCDHHS; on Sunday, the number climbed to 6,438.

As of today, 2,373 people are hospitalized for COVID-19, a new record high, and 5,605 people have died as a result of the virus.

According to Dr. Cohen, the metrics are only going to get worse next week.  

“We have yet to see the impact of Thanksgiving gatherings,” she said. So far, the only Thanksgiving-related COVID-19 transmission numbers we are seeing, she said, are of “people who went to Thanksgiving already sick” and then infected others.

The Secretary strongly urged people to “avoid traveling and gathering this holiday season” and to keep their celebrations small and indoors.

“Do not wait until it’s you or your loved one” who is sick, she warned. “Act now. Do those three Ws now.”

DARE COUNTY NOW IN THE YELLOW, NOT THE ORANGE OR RED

Dr. Cohen also presented an updated COVID-19 county alert map of North Carolina, saying it “presents a sobering picture.” Unfortunately, the State’s picture of Dare County, which formerly was in the middle orange tier, is deceptive.

See COVID-19-County-Alert-System-Report.pdf (nc.gov)

Forty-right of the state’s 100 counties are now in the red tier, which signifies “critical” community spread of COVID-19—up from just 20 a month ago—and 34 are in the orange tier, a designation for “substantial” spread.

The remaining 18 counties, which now include Dare County, are in the yellow tier, which signifies “significant” community spread.

Based on COVID-19 data from Nov. 21 to Dec. 4, Dare County has a calculated 14-day case rate of 337.8 per 100,000 people and a 14-day positive rate of 7.5 percent.

COVID-19 continues to have a “low impact” on Dare County’s only hospital because COVID-19 patients in need of hospitalization are transported outside of the area.

The Outer Banks Hospital does not have an intensive care unit.

Any county that has more than 200 new COVID-19 cases in 14 days qualifies as a “red” or “critical” county, provided it also has a positive rate of more than 10 percent OR the impact of COVID-19 on its hospitals is “high.”

COVID-19 will never have an impact on the Outer Banks Hospital other than a low impact.

You cannot be intubated at a hospital that does not have a ventilator.

We also question the positivity rate. 

By our count, the DCDHHS reported 176 new cases from Nov. 21 to Dec. 4. We would like to know what population figure the State used to calculate Dare’s 14-day case rate. Regardless, the rate of 337.8 cases per 100,000 people puts the county in the red, but for its absence of adequate health care.

Since last Friday, the DCDHHS has reported 53 new COVID-19 cases, according to Director Sheila Davies’s update today. That includes 20 new cases reported today, 16 of whom are Dare County residents.

Five locals are currently being hospitalized for COVID-19, according to Dr. Davies—just  not in Dare.   

Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 12/8/20

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