Make no mistake: Gov. Roy Cooper fired a shot across the bow regarding the coronavirus. Firing a warning shot across the front of a ship is a naval tactic to force a vessel to stop or alter its course, and that is exactly what Cooper intended.
Starting last Friday, all restaurants, bars and most other businesses are required to close at 10 p.m., and we are to stay home from that hour until 5 a.m. Some exceptions are allowed, but the very clear message is all of us need to be more diligent attacking the wildfire spread we are experiencing.
Look at the numbers. Our seven-day rolling average of newly diagnosed cases is over 5,200, with Dec. 9’s number a record high 6,500. One month ago, we reported 1,134 coronavirus patients in hospitals. Now there are 2,300 and two researchers at UNC and Duke stated that at the current rate we would run out of hospital beds in six weeks. Also worrisome is having enough doctors and nurses. A month ago, our percent positive of those tested was 6.5 percent. It is now 11.7 percent.
DHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen told me that in the last month she has progressed from concerned to worried to shocked. Virus spread is out of control. The number of red counties on highest warning levels is now 48, doubled in two weeks. There are 34 counties labeled orange, meaning they have substantial increases, and the 18 yellow counties are located in the far eastern and southwestern sections of our state.
The reaction to the new stay-at-home restrictions has been predictable. Those who have done their best to convince themselves and others this pandemic isn’t anything to fear claim this is yet another example of Cooper and Cohen trying to scare us, control our lives and ruin our economy. They may be vocal, but thankfully they are the minority. Many more are asking what took the governor so long or why he didn’t impose even more restrictions?
Our leadership earnestly doesn’t want further damage to our economy and is hopeful this step will awaken us to the seriousness of our situation and renew our zeal to lick it. That’s the warning shot. But they further warn that if the numbers don’t start getting better soon, we could return to near shut-down conditions like no in-restaurant dining and total closures of bars, gyms and gatherings.
There is hope on the horizon. The first Pfizer vaccines are arriving in our state. While there are limited doses, they will be allocated first to caregivers in our hospitals. It won’t inoculate them all, but Secretary Cohen hopes there will be another allocation next week and that the Moderna vaccine should be approved and begin distribution very soon.
Nationally, 63 percent say they will take the virus shot, but a High Point University poll last week said only 42 percent in our state would take the shot. 31 percent said they wouldn’t, and 27 percent were unsure. Cohen confirmed that no corners were cut in the development of the vaccines, that regulatory agencies followed accepted protocols in approval, and we should have confidence in the vaccines. They won’t solve the problem alone; it will be sometime mid to late 2021 before we see real impact from vaccines.
Last March none of us ever thought we would be living like this. If things are going to get better by next March, we have work to do. Wear the mask, indoors and out. Try to keep any gatherings small and outdoors. Maintain social distancing. Use takeout and deliveries for food and groceries. Stay home when possible. And wash those hands.
We’ve had the warning shot. Let’s make sure the next shot is the vaccine, not further restrictions.
Tom Campbell is former assistant state treasurer. Contact him at email@example.com.