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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 Health Chief: Moves To Reopen Could Endanger Vulnerable Residents

NC Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen, in file photo from April 23, 2020
NC Department of Public Safety
NC Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen, in file photo from April 23, 2020

Gaston County officials announced they would allow businesses to open up as long as they follow social distancing guidelines. But the state’s top health official says the move could endanger many vulnerable North Carolinians.

State officials reacted to Gaston County’s move by saying it would cause confusion during the public health emergency. Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen pointed to state data estimating how many residents in the state have chronic conditions that could lead them to have a more severe case of COVID-19.

"It’s close to half of North Carolinians that have either heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity or other chronic conditions," Cohen said.

Cohen says the state’s plan for a slow, three-phase lifting of restrictions on businesses would better protect the state’s more vulnerable residents.

Cohen also cited a study released Tuesday by researchers at RTI International, the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill and Duke University. The study concluded a phased reopening would lead to a less severe increase of viral spread than a quick reopening. It also found North Carolina’s stay-at-home order helped slow the spread of coronavirus better than previous models anticipated.

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Michael Falero is a radio reporter, currently covering voting and the 2020 election. He previously covered environment and energy for WFAE. Before joining WFAE in 2019, Michael worked as a producer for a number of local news podcasts based in Charlotte and Boston. He's a graduate of the Transom Story Workshop intensive on Cape Cod and UNC Chapel Hill.