Published 5:33 pm Tuesday, March 10, 2020

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RALEIGH – With additional cases of coronavirus reported in North Carolina, Governor Roy Cooper has declared a state of emergency.

He made that announcement at a Tuesday news conference in Raleigh.

The Governor said key provisions in the order are similar to those enacted in a natural disaster. The order will help with the cost burdens and supplies that may be difficult for providers and public health to access due to increased demand. It also increases the state public health department’s role in supporting local health departments, which have been tasked with monitoring quarantines, tracing exposure and administering testing.

The declaration automatically kicked in a measure that protects consumers against price gouging.

The state has also activated and opened its Emergency Operations Center.

“The health and safety of North Carolinians is our top priority,” Cooper said in a press release issued early Tuesday afternoon. “We are taking the necessary steps to ensure that North Carolina is prepared and responding to this virus, and this order helps us do that.

“Though we are still in the early stages in North Carolina, time is a valuable resource and we must work together to slow the spread while we can,” the Governor added.

Dr. Mandy Cohen, secretary of the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services, outlined the following recommendations:

People at high risk of severe illness from COVID-19, especially those ages 65-and-over, should avoid large groups of people as much as possible. This includes gatherings such as concert venues, conventions, church services, sporting events, and crowded social events. People at high risk should also avoid cruise travel and non-essential air travel.

All facilities that serve as residential establishments for high-risk persons described above should restrict visitors. These establishments include nursing homes, independent and assisted living facilities, correctional facilities, and facilities that care for medically vulnerable children.

NC DHHS also recommends that event organizers:

Urge anyone who is sick to not attend.

Encourage those who are at high risk, described above, to not attend.

Adopt lenient refund policies for people who are high risk.

Find ways to give people more physical space to limit close contact as much as possible.

Encourage attendees to wash hands frequently.

Clean surfaces with standard cleaners.

It was also recommended that all travelers returning from countries and US states impacted by COVID-19 follow DHHS guidance on self-monitoring:

Dr. Cohen did not recommend closing schools at this time.

The state of emergency apparently will not impact the ACC Men’s Basketball Tournament that tipped-off Tuesday afternoon at the Greensboro Coliseum. That event ends Saturday.

Gov. Cooper’s emergency declaration came on the heels of Monday’s announcement by the Dept. of Health & Human Services that five more people in Wake County were tested presumptively positive for COVID-19 (novel coronavirus). All traveled to Boston in late February to attend a BioGen conference. Several cases of COVID-19 across the country have been tied to the conference.

These cases are not related to the Wake County individual who tested positive last week.

All are in isolation at their respective homes.

The tests, conducted by the North Carolina State Laboratory of Public Health, are presumptively positive and will be confirmed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lab. While awaiting confirmation of results from the CDC, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services will treat presumptive cases as positive and follow CDC guidelines to protect public health and limit the spread of infection.

The Wake County Public Health Division is already working to identify close contacts. The CDC defines close contact as being within approximately 6 feet of a person with a COVID-19 infection for a prolonged period of time.

Based on information provided by the individual, county health officials will assess risks of exposure, determine which if any additional measures are needed such as temperature and symptom checks, quarantine and/or testing.

Because COVID-19 is most commonly spread through respiratory droplets, North Carolinians should take the same measures that health care providers recommend to prevent the spread of the flu and other viruses, including washing your hands, avoiding touching your face, staying home if you are sick and covering coughs and sneezes with your elbow.

North Carolinians with questions or concerns about COVID-19 can call the COVID-19 phone line toll-free at 866-462-3821. This helpline is staffed by the North Carolina Poison Control 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

The emergency declaration also protects people from scammers. State Attorney General Josh Stein notified businesses and citizens on Tuesday to be on the lookout for any issues.

“With reports of coronavirus infections on the rise, North Carolina is under a state of emergency and our price gouging law is in effect,” said Stein. “It is illegal to charge excessive prices during a state of emergency. If you see businesses taking advantage of this crisis, let my office know and we will work to hold them accountable.”

North Carolina has a strong statute against price gouging – charging too much during a time of crisis – that is tied directly to a declaration of a state of emergency.

Stein and the North Carolina Department of Justice will be reviewing price gouging complaints from consumers closely and are prepared to take action against any businesses engaging in price gouging activities. Please report potential price gouging by calling 1-877-5-NO-SCAM or by filing a complaint at [].


About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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