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DHHS Secretary Implores NC: 'Staying Home Will Save Lives'

N.C. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen delivers a COVID-19 update.

North Carolina health officials are imploring residents to follow the statewide stay-at-home order that goes into effect at 5 p.m. Monday. 

"I can't stress it enough. Your actions matter. Staying home matters. Staying home will save lives," said Dr. Mandy Cohen, Secretary of N.C. Department of Health and Human Services.

There exists no vaccine or treatment for the highly contagious coronavirus, so the only way to slow its spread is for people to not catch it in the first place. But because the incubation period is as long as one week on average – and up to two weeks in some cases – it has spread in North Carolina in ways that are impossible to track.

"We are seeing now that there is community spread. Folks don't know where they picked it up from," Cohen said in remarks that were direct in imploring North Carolinians to practice safe social distancing measures.

In a press teleconference Monday morning, state epidemiologist Dr. Zack Moore said the latest case information suggests infections in North Carolina are still trending upward.

"We have to acknowledge that we're just at the beginning," he said. "Every indication is that this is just ramping up now and we are in what we would call the acceleration phase of the pandemic here in North Carolina, so we are still on our way up."

Proper social distancing
Proper social distancing

Even with the stay-at-home order, Moore said it will take time to determine the effectiveness of isolation measures, and urged people not to leave home unless they have to. 

State-by-state models released by the University of Washington predict that the outbreak in North Carolina will peak in about three weeks. The analysis shows that the state could have a shortage of nearly 300 Intensive Care Unit beds.

Cohen said the latest data suggest North Carolina's hospitals have the capacity to care for COVID-19 patients right now, but they're still preparing for a surge of cases in the next few weeks. The statewide stay at home order is in effect until at least April 29.

Will Michaels is WUNC's General Assignment Reporter and fill-in host for "Morning Edition"
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