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Gov. Cooper: 'The worst is over' for COVID-19 in North Carolina

Governor Roy Cooper Official Twitter

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper is optimistic about the state’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, saying during a press briefing Thursday that he believes “the worst is over.”

“We enter the next phase of individual responsibility, preparedness and prosperity,” Cooper said. “It’s time to chart a new course.”

However, despite Cooper's optimism, North Carolina will remain under a state of emergency for the time being. Cooper first issued the state of emergency two years ago.

Asked why it’s still necessary he offered this: "So, it’s a legal tool that we are using to provide the flexibility that is needed."

The Governor says the emergency order provides flexibility to healthcare providers to give treatment more quickly and with distribution of vaccines.

Cooper said that the state’s economy has recovered to pre-COVID employment levels. According to a news release from Monday from the Governor’s office, labor force participation rate in the state increased 0.5% over the past year. Non-farm jobs increased by 166,500, a 3.7% increase, and the unemployment rate fell by 1.6%.

"Even in our most difficult moments, I knew that North Carolina would come out alright because of the strength of our people," Cooper said. "Our resilience, our determination and our dedication to the values of community and ingenuity got us through it."

On Thursday, the state’s COVID-19 dashboard showed that 769 people in the state were hospitalized with COVID-19, and 76% of the state’s population had received at least one dose of the vaccine.

Beginning March 23, the COVID-19 metrics for North Carolina will be updated weekly, according to state Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kody Kinsley, adding that the state will shift to tracking a new set of pandemic metrics.

Cooper said his administration will shift some of its approach to evaluating the pandemic, instead treating it as an endemic, similar to the seasonal flu.

This story will be updated.

Mitchell Northam is a Digital Producer for WUNC. His past work has been featured at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, SB Nation, the Orlando Sentinel and the Associated Press. He is a graduate of Salisbury University and is also a voter in the AP Top 25 poll for women's college basketball.
Jeff Tiberii covers politics for WUNC. Before that, he served as the station's Greensboro Bureau Chief.
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