VIDEO: Gov. Cooper says State of Emergency will remain, discusses plan for next phase of pandemic

Gov. Roy Cooper (with sign language interpreter) speaks during the March 17, 2022 press conference. [courtesy PBS North Carolina]

Gov. Roy Cooper says North Carolina is now entering the next phase of the COVID-19 pandemic, as hospitalizations and daily cases continue to drop statewide.

Cooper was joined by Kody Kinsley, Secretary for North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) on Thursday morning, who explained the Department’s plan to adapt in further proceedings of the next stage. North Carolina Commerce Secretary Machelle Sanders joined to highlight North Carolina’s strategic economic development plan for moving forward.

“Over the last two years, we’ve written a history of hardship and resilience, setbacks and successes,” said Governor Cooper. “But now, we enter the next phase. One of individual responsibility, preparedness and prosperity. This virus will still be with us, but it won’t disrupt us.”

With vaccines, testing, treatment and other tools widely available, NCDHHS is adapting its response for the current stage of the pandemic, outlined in Moving Forward Together. The plan is rooted in four principles:

  • Empowering individuals to make informed decisions for their individual lives in returning to normal routines
  • Maintaining health system capacity by continuing to coordinate with the state’s health care community
  • Collaborating with local partners to support resilience and speed recovery
  • Prioritizing equity in access to information and tools needed to protect against COVID-19.

“We have worked hard to get here. With a robust toolset, we are prepared now as individuals and as a state in ways we could have not been two years ago or even two months ago.” Secretary Kinsley said. “As we move forward together, we will continue to ensure every North Carolinian has access to the tools and information they need to protect themselves and others.”

From the beginning, Governor Cooper used data and the best scientific information available to drive North Carolina’s response. As a result, North Carolina had the lowest per capita death rate in the southeast and among the lowest in the nation, and statewide hospital capacity has never exceeded 91%.

As North Carolina moves into this next phase, the combination of key metrics guiding its response will also change to reflect the latest science and meet the current need. Beginning on March 23, the summary page of the NCDHHS COVID-19 Dashboard will be updated weekly on Wednesdays with the following seven indicators:

  • Wastewater surveillance
  • COVID-like illness
  • Hospital admissions
  • Cases
  • Booster rates
  • Prevalence of variants
  • CDC’s COVID-19 community level metric

NCDHHS will stay ready to respond should new and more dangerous variants emerge. Vaccines are still the best protection for ourselves and our communities, and NCDHHS leaders encourage everyone to get vaccinated and boosted as soon as they are eligible.

“The COVID-19 virus will be with us for the foreseeable future, and we will need to learn to live with the virus,” said Dr. Elizabeth Cuervo Tilson, NCDHHS Chief Medical Officer and State Health Director.  “I encourage you to speak with your trusted health care provider as you consider your own risk and the actions you can take now and in the future.”

North Carolina Commerce Secretary Machelle Sanders gave a high-level overview of North Carolina’s continued economic success and outlined the state’s Strategic Economic Development Plan known as First in Talent. Earlier this week, state economists said that the state has recovered to pre-pandemic employment levels and GDP.

The plan recognizes our people are our most valuable asset in continuing to grow the economy.  The First in Talent plan proposes innovative strategies to ensure that North Carolinians are equipped to compete in a dynamic marketplace, and businesses have the talent they need to thrive.

“Despite the pandemic, North Carolina continues to attract major investments and expand homegrown companies,” said North Carolina Commerce Secretary Machelle Sanders. “As the last two years have taught us, conditions can change rapidly and our businesses, workforce and communities must be skilled enough to adapt and grow. We are implementing the First in Talent strategic economic development plan because CEOs’ number one question is always about our workforce and we can’t rely solely on what made us successful in the past.”

The comprehensive four-year plan identifies three key goals critical to the state’s economic development strategy:

  • Prepare North Carolina’s workforce for career and entrepreneurial success.
  • Prepare North Carolina’s businesses for success by growing and attracting a talented workforce.
  • Prepare communities across North Carolina to be more competitive in growing and attracting a talented workforce and businesses.

The full emergency press conference can be found in it’s entirety below: