The spread of the coronavirus across the state and record hospitalizations prompted Gov. Roy Cooper to issue a modified stay-at-home order effective Friday that requires businesses to close from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. except those that sell food, gas or pharmaceuticals.
“The virus is upon us with a rapid viciousness like we haven’t seen before,” Cooper said at a press conference Tuesday.
More than 2,300 North Carolinians have died since the pandemic began in March. Daily case counts have exceeded 6,000 for several days in the last week, shattering previous records.
The order creates a nighttime public closure period that prohibits alcohol sales between 9 p.m. and 7 a.m. Takeout and delivery services may continue during the nighttime period.
Travel to and from work is permitted, and employees may continue to work throughout the night so long as the public is not allowed in the business.
The order does not change capacity limits for bars, restaurants or other establishments, but “events or convenings outside of the home must end by 10 p.m., and guests must leave the establishment and travel home or to the place where they will stay for the night.”
The governor warned that if trends do not improve, more restrictive action may be necessary. “Let me be clear: We will do more if our trends do not improve,” Cooper said. “That means additional actions involving indoor restaurant dining, entertainment facilities and shopping and retail capacity. None of us wants that.”
The state tracks several metrics to determine the level of spread in each of the state’s 100 counties, designating those with the most critical levels in red. Forty-eight counties are now red on the County Alert System map, up from 20 two weeks ago.
“If you are in a red or orange county, you should limit going out to essential activities, you should avoid people that you don’t live with,” said Dr. Mandy Cohen, N.C. Department of Health and Human Services secretary.
The current spike does not yet account for people who contracted the virus over Thanksgiving, she said.
Those patients are expected to present to already overwhelmed emergency departments in the next few weeks, exacerbating an already challenging situation for medical providers.
If current trends continue, the state may run out of intensive care unit beds in less than five weeks, according to a study issued today by University of North Carolina and Duke University researchers.
The increasing rate of hospitalization creates concerns not only about available beds and ventilators, but also health care staff tasked with treating Covid-19 positive patients.
“When you talk about bed capacity, it is just as much if not more making sure that hospitals have the personnel to take care of the people,” Cooper said.
“They may have additional bed capacity that they may not be able to put patients there because they may not have enough workers available to do it.”