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Gov. Roy Cooper on Monday announced tighter restrictions on gatherings and some businesses in an effort to slow the spread of the new coronavirus.
Cooper said he would issue a new executive order that would make it a misdemeanor for assemblies of more than 50 people, compared to the current one that prohibits gatherings of more than 100. The 50-person limit is in keeping with guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, according to the Associated Press.
Cooper’s order will include closures of hair salons and barbershops, gyms and movie theaters as well as sweepstakes parlors by 5 p.m. Wednesday.
“I know that these actions cause hardship and heartache for a lot of people, but are necessary to save lives,” Cooper said in a Monday news conference.
Restaurants and bars providing takeout and delivery will remain open, as well as grocery stores and other essential businesses. Cooper also urged the public not to overbuy and hoard groceries and items like toilet paper. He said supermarket executives have told him supply lines are open.
WILSON COUNTY reaches 5 cases
Wilson County health officials confirmed an additional two diagnosed cases of COVID-19 Monday, both of which were travel-related. That brings Wilson County cases to a total of five.
In the fourth case, the patient is in quarantine at home, according to Wilson County Health Director Teresa Ellen.
Ellen said the woman, who had symptoms, had been at home since returning from travel.
One other person is quarantined in connection to this case. That means the person does not have symptoms at this time.
County officials released information on a fifth case Monday afternoon. That particular case was diagnosed in a man who had traveled out of state, Ellen said. He has been isolated at home since returning to North Carolina and is recovering. No one else is isolated as a result of this case, Ellen said.
None of the five Wilson County COVID-19 cases are related to each other, county health officials said.
Statewide, at least 297 people have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to Monday morning figures released from the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services. That number reflects positive cases from all tests, including those conducted by the state lab, hospitals and commercial labs.
State health officials say 11 patients who were diagnosed with COVID-19 are currently being hospitalized in North Carolina, according to the governor’s Monday press conference.
As of Monday afternoon, no deaths have been reported in North Carolina.
SHIFT IN RESPONSE
As more test results begin to come in, state and local health officials say the public will see an increase in confirmed cases of COVID-19.
“Again, we do know COVID-19 is in our community and we see that with testing, our numbers are growing, so we are shifting to a new phase in our response,” Ellen said Monday afternoon. “We are asking those folks who are sick with what they feel are mild symptoms of COVID-19 to remain at home. Most will recover just fine.”
Ellen said there isn’t an abundance of sample collection materials available and personal protective equipment is in short supply nationwide.
“Therefore, we want to keep those resources available to care for those who are high-risk and those who are more severely ill,” Ellen said.
Cooper urged those, especially the at-risk population, to stay home as much as possible. The CDC issued new guidance regarding those at high risk for severe illness from COVID-19.
Older adults and people of any age who have serious underlying medical conditions might be at a higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19, according to the CDC. That includes:
• People 65 and older.
• Those who live in a nursing home or long-term care facility.
• Those with chronic lung disease or moderate to severe asthma, those who have heart disease with complications and those who are immune-compromised including cancer treatment.
• People of any age with severe obesity or certain underlying medical conditions, particularly if not well controlled, such as those with diabetes, renal failure or liver disease.
• Pregnant women should be monitored since they are known to be at risk with severe vital illness. However, current data on COVID-19 has not shown increased risk.
• Many conditions can cause a person to be immune-compromised, including cancer treatment, bone marrow or organ transplantation, immune deficiencies, poorly controlled HIV or AIDS and prolonged use of corticosteroids and other immune-weakening medications.
SLOW THE SPREAD
Health officials say it’s vital for each person to do his or her part in slowing COVID-19’s spread. Preventing a large peak of cases at once will help the health care system provide treatment to those who have complications from the virus.
“We cannot stress the importance of adhering to those mitigation strategies enough,” Ellen said. “These are the things that will get us through this pandemic and help us to avoid overwhelming our healthcare system. Please take the precautions seriously.”
• Wash your hands and surfaces frequently.
• Avoid any crowds.
• Practice social distancing (at least 6 feet).
• Work from home if possible.
• If you don’t feel well, stay at home.
• Call your doctor if you are exhibiting symptoms including cough, fever or shortness of breath. If you do not have a doctor and you are exhibiting symptoms, call the Wilson County Health Department at 252-237-3141. Wilson Medical Center has also implemented a COVID-19 screening hotline: 252-399-7068, which is available from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays.
Under guidance from Ellen and health department staff, Wilson County government, County Manager Denise Stinagle and Assistant Manager Ron Hunt continue to actively communicate changes and new information with partners, emergency management, Wilson County EMS, the 911 communications center and county departments.
“This situation has been fluid since the beginning and our staff continue to rise to the challenge,” Hunt said.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.