North Carolina will remain paused in its current reopening plan for an additional three weeks, with indoor gathering limits reduced from 25 people to 10 people starting on Friday.
Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper announced the tightening of gathering restrictions during a Tuesday news conference. The decision not to further reopen ahead of Thanksgiving comes at a time when the state is concerned about increases it has seen in coronavirus cases and the percentage of COVID-19 tests coming back positive.
“The science shows that the transmission of this virus is much greater indoors, and the more people are gathered, the easier this virus can spread,” Cooper said.
Cooper, who won reelection last week, noted that churches and restaurants would be unaffected by the updated guidance. The executive order will remain in place until Dec. 4.
The governor also ruled out any possibility of personally serving in President-elect Joe Biden's administration. Asked if he'd be open to considering a position, Cooper replied, “No for me.”
Mandy Cohen, secretary of the state Department of Health and Human Services, has seen her name gain traction as a possible candidate for a spot as Biden's HHS secretary. She declined to discuss her potential interest and did not offer a direct answer when pressed again for a response.
“I am focused here on making sure the folks in North Carolina stay safe, particularly over the holidays, and I'm gonna keep focused on that,” Cohen said.
Cooper acknowledged the outside chatter.
“Her name's all over the news,” Cooper said. “One of the reasons she would be considered is because of the fact that North Carolina has done well and has done the things that we need to do to create a positive response. Anybody would be fortunate to have Dr. Cohen, and, of course, I want her right here.”
North Carolina's case count has risen in recent weeks and saw its highest single-day increase in COVID cases last week since the start of the pandemic, with more than 2,900 people testing positive for the virus. The state has seen more than 7% of tests come back positive recently, a statistic it wants to see drop below 5%.
Cohen reiterated previous guidance that residents and out-of-state visitors should avoid traveling to see loved ones over the Thanksgiving holiday if possible. Those who do plan to attend gatherings are encouraged to get tested for the virus beforehand, wear a mask when they visit and remain physically distant from others, preferably outdoors.
She also urged residents and visitors to download the “SlowCOVIDNC” mobile application, which uses bluetooth signals to securely inform people when they have come into close contact with someone who has shared a positive COVID-19 test result in the app.
“We are on shaky ground as we head into Thanksgiving,” Cohen said. “The safest thing we can do for our loved ones is to limit travel and to avoid getting together in person, especially indoors.”