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See the latest news and updates about COVID-19 and its impact on the Charlotte region, the Carolinas and beyond.

NC Could Move Forward With Reopening. How Are The Numbers?

N.C. Department of Public Safety
Gov. Roy Cooper wears a mask as he gives an update on the coronavirus earlier this month.

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper is expected to announce this week whether the state will move forward into Phase 3 of its reopening process. This comes amid a surge in coronavirus cases in North Carolina and mounting pressure from businesses and lawmakers.

Numbers Moving In 'Wrong Direction'

State Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen said Monday that North Carolina’s coronavirus trends are moving in the “wrong direction.”

Officials have been watching several key metrics, including the number of people hospitalized because of the coronavirus.

Coronavirus hospitalizations in the state have been trending upward and hit a record high in five out of the past seven days, according to state health department data. Eight hundred seventy people were in the hospital because of the virus on Monday.

“If we’re going in the wrong direction -- we just go up and up and up -- at some point, we reach a point where we only have a limited amount of resources. There are only so many beds that we can surge to,” Cohen said, adding that to change the trajectory of cases and keep the virus from spreading, residents should wear face coverings and practice social distancing.

Another trend officials are watching is the percentage of positive tests — or the number of people who test positive for the coronavirus out of the total number of people who are tested. That number was between 8% and 10% over the past week as of Monday, which Cohen called “high.”

The total number of new coronavirus cases is also increasing along with the percentage of people visiting the emergency room with coronavirus-like symptoms -- two other trends state officials are monitoring.

What Would The Next Phase Look Like?

Businesses like movie theaters, gyms, bars, bowling alleys and yoga studios remain closed after Cooper issued a modified Phase 2 executive order in May. Those could reopen as early as next week if the state moves into Phase 3.

Cohen said Monday she and other officials are still trying to “find the balance between reopening and protecting public health.”

Cooper could decide to permit certain businesses to reopen but exclude others. He could also extend the existing executive order and keep the state under a modified Phase 2.

Under Pressure

Cooper has faced pressure from businesses and state lawmakers to move forward with reopening. Last week, he vetoed a bill that would have allowed bars and gyms to reopen at 50% capacity. State Republican Party leader Michael Whatley called the veto “unacceptable” and said businesses need certainty about reopening the economy.

Cooper also vetoed another reopening bill earlier in June that would have allowed bars to reopen for outdoor customers, among other things.

Many businesses are anxious to reopen.

The latest state numbers show that more than 1 million people in North Carolina have applied for unemployment benefits. The state unemployment rate hit 12.9% in May, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

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Claire Donnelly is WFAE's health reporter. She previously worked at NPR member station KGOU in Oklahoma and also interned at WBEZ in Chicago and WAMU in Washington, D.C. She holds a master's degree in journalism from Northwestern University and attended college at the University of Virginia, where she majored in Comparative Literature and Spanish. Claire is originally from Richmond, Virginia. Reach her at cdonnelly@wfae.org or on Twitter @donnellyclairee.
Lisa Worf traded the Midwest for Charlotte in 2006 to take a job at WFAE. She worked with public TV in Detroit and taught English in Austria before making her way to radio. Lisa graduated from University of Chicago with a bachelor’s degree in English.