As cases rise, leaders remind NC that pandemic is not over

MECKLENBURG COUNTY, N.C. — North Carolina reported the highest single-day increase in coronavirus cases Friday. The state reported 1,768 new lab-confirmed cases.

Mecklenburg County also saw a new daily high case total at 235. County health director Gibbie Harris said Friday is the 11th straight day of triple-digit cases reported.

While an increase in cases was expected due to an increase in testing, health leaders didn’t expect it to happen so fast.

“They expected the number to go up, but it is the pace of the increase that is concerning,” said Dr. Mandy Cohen, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services.

Harris also said this is not a second wave of the virus, but the state is seeing a peak in cases, which Harris predicted.

At first, Harris said the peak would occur in late June or early July. Friday, she moved that back to between late August and early September.

Harris said people are feeling the coronavirus fatigue, but she is stressing COVID-19 is still here. And at this point, things are not looking good for being able to enter Phase 3 in two weeks.

Mecklenburg County held its first news conference on COVID-19 in three weeks Friday, and basically everything is on the rise. That included the percentage of positive cases, which is coming up at about 10%. And hospitalizations are averaging 101 people currently.

The county said, however, that social distancing is on the decline. More people are out and about, and pretty soon, the state could be at the same level it was at before the stay-at-home order was issued.

Based on the governor’s timeline, North Carolina could enter into Phase 3 in two weeks. At this point though, Harris said that is not likely.

“The way the numbers look right now, I would be surprised if we fully move into Phase 3. There may be some additional restrictions lifted, but I really don’t have a feel for that. I do know that Dr. Cohen is concerned about the numbers,” Harris said.

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper called the statistics sobering, but he’s holding hope that the state can enter into Phase 2.5 or Phase 3 soon.

“Insisting on strategies that reduce transmission like washing hands, wearing a face covering, waiting 6 feet apart from other people and tracing the virus through its source,” Cooper said.

Harris is also encouraging people to wear masks when out in public and to social distance to slow the spread of the virus.

She said a mask mandate isn’t possible at this point though, because police have expressed concerns with enforcement.

Hospitalizations are also up in the state, but hospitals are not overwhelmed. There are still plenty of hospital beds, and 72% of North Carolina’s ventilators are still available.