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By North Carolina Health News staff
Gov. Roy Cooper issued a statewide stay-at-home order for North Carolinians on Friday as part of his continued effort to take an aggressive stance against the highly contagious coronavirus.
In a news conference announcing the order that takes effect Monday at 5 p.m., Cooper said that North Carolina now has been classified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as a state with widespread transmission of the disease known as COVID-19.
Since testing began in North Carolina, at least 15,136 tests for the novel pathogen had been completed by Friday morning and 763 of those tests have been positive, with results spread across 60 counties.
Three deaths had also been reported by Friday morning. The official state count does not include a Virginia man who died this week while passing through North Carolina.
Many people carrying the virus lack any symptoms, making community spread a common feature of the epidemic. Hospitalizations have gone up quickly this week as the virus has started spreading through these unknown community contacts. Seventy-seven people were hospitalized as of Friday morning. On March 20, a week ago, four people were hospitalized, according to state public health officials.
Before Cooper issued his order on Friday, many cities, counties and towns issued orders of their own for their residents to stay at home. Any that are more restrictive than the statewide order takes precedence, Cooper said.
For much of the past week, the North Carolina Chamber of Commerce, a powerful business voice, had advocated against a statewide order. But by Friday, it was not only health care system advocates applauding the governor’s move, but the president of the N.C. Realtors, with more than 48,000 members across the state also joined in.
“To date, the majority of local stay-at-home orders have designated real estate services as an essential business activity, so we were happy to see that the Governor chose to follow in that direction,” President Maren Brisson-Kuester said in a statement. “We hope that the local governments with existing orders will make changes to reflect the Governor’s directives. Maintaining housing and shelter is of paramount importance always, but especially now. It is vital that individuals be allowed to complete transactions that they long-anticipated to be personally and economically essential to themselves and their families.”
The statewide order further restricts the number of people who can gather to 10, but it makes exceptions for grocery stores, airports, medical facilities, as well as funerals, which are restricted to no more than 50 people.
People can go outside for walks, to buy food, fill prescriptions, take care of family members, volunteer and visit places of worship that are complying with social distancing and crowd-size rules.
Cooper acknowledged that the directives were “tough,” but urged all in North Carolina to take them seriously.
“It’s what we have to do to save lives,” Cooper said. “It has the force of law.”
After closing public schools, as well as bars and restaurants earlier this month, Cooper acknowledged that many people across the state already have been adhering to pleas for social, or physical, distancing. It’s important to continue with such measures, he said to fight a virus for which no vaccine is likely to be available any time soon.
‘No one is immune’
Countries such as Italy and China and states such as New York have shown how quickly the virus can spread and overwhelm health care systems. North Carolina and elsewhere are fighting the pandemic with a shortage of protective equipment for health care workers and too few ventilators at the ready for the viral pneumonia that can accompany some cases.
“Because no one is immune, because there is no vaccination, the best scientifically proven tool we have to slow the spread is keeping our physical distance and staying at home,” Cooper said.
Most public health officials, the governor added, predict that coronavirus will be wreaking havoc “for a while” and that’s why he has tried to take aggressive measures for the past month.
“Although we are physically apart, we must take these steps together in spirit,” Cooper said. “Even if you don’t think you have to worry about yourself, consider our nurses and hospital staff, doctors, people who will be stretched beyond their capacity if we’re unable to slow the spread of this disease. Consider your families, consider your friends, people you might infect if you’re carrying the virus. We need to keep them safe.”
No school bells, half-time buzzers
Cooper acknowledged the financial toll the restrictions and order would have on households and individuals.
“I’ll do everything in my power to try and cushion the economic blow,” he said.
More than 200,000 unemployment claims have been filed with most citing the pandemic as the reason they lost work. Cooper said checks should begin to go out next week.
“I am fighting for federal and state help for workers, their families and their businesses,” Cooper said. “We will not forget those who’ve lost their livelihoods.”
In closing, Cooper said the virus and the battle to keep it at bay had upended daily life for many.
“The sounds of our lives — the school bell or the half-time buzzer, they’re gone,” Cooper said. “Losing your job or closing your business has to be difficult. But we have to act now in the smartest way.
“We know that the good part of our lives as North Carolinians will return.” – Anne Blythe
Wake Forest Baptist Health opens 10 respiratory symptom clinics
Wake Forest Baptist Health announced Friday the opening of 10 clinics for people who have symptoms of respiratory illness. The clinics are not testing sites, the organization said in a press release. People with respiratory symptoms can call their primary care provider or Wake Forest Baptist’s hotline for an initial phone screening, according to the press release. If a patient needs to be evaluated in person, the patient will come to one of the clinic locations, call the clinic, and remain in their car until they are ready to be seen, the release said. A clinician will then escort the patient directly to an exam room.
The locations of the respiratory symptom clinics are:
- Asheboro: Family Medicine – Sunset Avenue, 375 Sunset Ave.
- Hickory: Family Medicine – Springs Road, 2359 Springs Road. NE
- High Point: Urgent Care – Palladium, 5826 Samet Drive, Suite 101
- High Point: Pulmonology – Westchester, 1814 Westchester Drive, Suite 202
- Kernersville: Internal Medicine – Kernersville, 861 Old Winston Road
- Lexington: Internal Medicine – Lexington, 105 Hospital Drive
- Mocksville: Urgent Care – Mocksville, 1188 Yadkinville Road
- North Wilkesboro: Urgent Care – Wilkes, 1900 West Park Drive
- Summerfield: Family Medicine – Summerfield, 4431 U.S. Highway 220 North (this location is opening next week)
- Winston-Salem: Family and Internal Medicine Peace Haven, 1930 N. Peace Haven Road
More information is available at Wake Forest Baptist’s hotline at 336-70-COVID or on the organization’s coronavirus page. -Liora Engel-Smith
The state of North Carolina has set up a text service to help parents feed their children while school is out.
Parents can text FOODNC to 877-877 to find free meal sites. The texting service is also available in Spanish by texting COMIDA to 877-877. The locations of all the sites are also listed on a map below. More information is available at No Kid Hungry NC. -Liora Engel-Smith
Source: No Kid Hungry NC
New data show hoarding of hydroxychloroquine after President Trump’s “game-changer” comment
The national run on anti-malarial drugs started on March 16 with a simple tweet from Elon Musk, the billionaire founder of Tesla, who stated that the drugs “may be worth considering” in the fight against COVID-19.
In a news conference three days later, President Donald Trump touted the drugs — chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine — as a potential “game-changer’’ against a pandemic that has now afflicted more than 86,000 people in the United States.
Trump has since continued to make a pitch for hydroxychloroquine, even though the drug hasn’t been approved for treatment of the coronavirus, and growing evidence suggests that it might not work and could have harmful side effects for some.
Statistics provided Friday by Jay Campbell, the N.C. Board of Pharmacy director, show just how fast prescriptions for hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine increased nationwide after Musk’s tweet and Trump’s endorsements.
Typically, about 6,000 prescriptions of the two drugs had been dispensed in the United States each day, according to SureScripts, a company that seeks to lower drug costs and increase patient safety and care.
The day Trump exclaimed that the drugs show promise in the fight against COVID-19, the number of prescriptions soared to 28,400. The day afterward, to more than 25,000.
New York, which has the highest number of coronavirus cases in the country, led the electronic prescription numbers with 14,527 filled between March 16-20 — a 422 percent increase, according to SureScripts. North Carolina wasn’t far behind, with 2,135 prescriptions — a 102 percent increase.
The run on hydroxychloroquine was so big and swift that it caused a shortage for people who suffer from lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and other autoimmune diseases who depend on the drug daily. It also led state boards of pharmacy — including North Carolina’s — to enact emergency rules this week to stop health care providers from hoarding it.
“There are trials ongoing right now to see if it is effective against the virus,” said Duke University’s Peter Ubel during a call with reporters Friday morning. “There’s been so much hype and enthusiasm for the drug you worry about there being shortages for people who do need them.”
Earlier this week, the state pharmacy board enacted emergency rules that, among other things, bans health care providers from dispensing hydroxychloroquine, chloroquine or other specified drugs to coronavirus patients for longer than 14 days. A primary aim of the rules is to ensure enough supply exists for lupus patients and others who need it while stopping the drug from being hoarded.
The N.C. Medical Board approved the same emergency rules on Friday. -Greg Barnes
Golf remains popular
While gyms and health clubs have been forced to close their doors to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, public and private golf courses remain open. Even as more counties adopt stay-at-home measures and urge people to avoid large groups or close proximity, people are hitting the links in increased numbers to get physical activity while maintaining social distance.
It’s not a complete free-for-all, however. Courses are paying more attention to sanitation. Charlotte’s Ratcliffe Golf Services no longer accepts cash, golf carts are washed after each use, golf clubs are no longer available to rent, and customers receive sanitizers and wipes to disinfect the kiosks. -Melba Newsome
Mental Health Moment: Free live arts performances
Charlotte Ballet and the Davidson College Theatre Department are hosting performances online and free to viewers. Earlier this month, the coronavirus forced Charlotte Ballet to postpone all performances just hours from their “Sleeping Beauty” premiere.
On Friday, the ballet will present choreographer Christopher Stuart’s “Dispersal” which was created for the ballet’s 2020 winter series, Innovative Works: Beyond the Mint. The pre-recorded performance will be posted on Charlotte Ballet’s Facebook page and YouTube channel and will feature behind-the-scenes footage and interviews, followed by a full performance by Charlotte Ballet company dancers.
The Davidson Theatre Department is staging a reading of “The Refugees” via Zoom, the teleconferencing app. The live reading in which the actors perform their roles from their living rooms replaces the scheduled premiere.
On Wednesday nights, Charlotte’s Middle C Jazz club in Charlotte streams Notes from Middle C, a live performance by noted artists. Donations are accepted but the performances are free. Check Middle C’s Facebook page for more details. Their March 25 livestream is up now and sounds great! -Melba Newsome