‘The Christmas holidays could be even worse’: Gov. Roy Cooper, health secretary ask North Carolinians not to travel for the holidays, get tested before any gatherings


RALEIGH, N.C. — Restrictions will not prevent families from gathering in small numbers in North Carolina, but state leaders issued a stern warning against it.

“Just like Thanksgiving we need to rethink what it means to celebrate this December,” Gov. Roy Cooper said Tuesday. “We’re just seeing the Thanksgiving COVID-19 spike over the last few days, and the Christmas holidays could be even worse.”

N.C. Department of Health and Human Service Secretary Mandy Cohen echoed that sentiment, emphasizing that anyone who does travel can and should get tested for the coronavirus.

“As we head into the holidays, we have a hard ask for everyone in North Carolina,” N.C. Department of Health and Human Service Secretary Mandy Cohen. “The CDC is recommending that people do not travel and instead stay home this holiday season. If you absolutely must travel or gather with others, it is essential you get tested ahead of time. Wear a mask all the time and keep it small and keep it outdoors.”

Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center was the first facility in the country to receive the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine for distribution.

Monday morning WFBMC received its first shipment of 2,925 doses of the vaccine.

Dr. Christopher Ohl, an infectious disease expert with Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, was the first in line to get the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine at WFBMC, the first location in the country to receive the vaccine shipment.

At about 1:15 p.m. on Tuesday, Ohl was on camera as he received his first dose. His second dose will come in 21 days.

Dr. Katie Passaretti, the medical director of infection prevention at Atrium Health in Charlotte, was the first person to receive the coronavirus vaccine in our state on Monday morning.  

“I’m perfectly fine. I have really no side effects, no problems. I came back to work and I’m sitting in my office finishing up the stuff I put to the side when I got vaccinated,” she said.

A Cone Health spokesperson said they also expect to receive the vaccine on Thursday. It will be administered on Friday at their Green Valley Campus. 

Novant Health provided FOX8 with the following statement: “Novant Health Forsyth Medical Center’s first-week allotment of vaccines is 2,925. We anticipate receiving our first allocation on Thursday, but this date is tentative as things remain fluid. We continue to conduct practice runs of procurement, distribution and administration as well as team member trainings.”

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper announced that the vaccines had arrived with a post on Twitter Monday morning.

“It’s a limited supply for now, but this is a remarkable achievement for science and health,” Cooper said. “We all need to keep wearing a mask and acting responsibly while we get as many people vaccinated as fast as we can.”

Shots made by Pfizer Inc. and its German partner BioNTech are the first authorized for emergency use by the Food and Drug Administration — beginning what will become the largest vaccination campaign in U.S. history. Several other countries also have OK’d the vaccine, including the U.K., which started vaccinating last week.

Packed in dry ice to stay at ultra-frozen temperatures, the first of nearly 3 million doses being shipped in staggered batches this week made their way by truck and by plane around the country Sunday from Pfizer’s Kalamazoo, Michigan, factory. Once they arrive at distribution centers, each state directs where the doses go next.

More of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine will arrive each week. And later this week, the FDA will decide whether to green light the world’s second rigorously studied COVID-19 vaccine, made by Moderna Inc.

Cooper penned an op-ed that was released Friday morning, drawing attention to the rising numbers of coronavirus cases across the state.

“A month ago, daily case counts above 3,000 were troubling,” Cooper wrote. “Recently, we’ve had several days with more than 6,000 new daily cases.”

The op-ed was released before that day’s COVID-19 numbers were released. On Friday, the state hit a new record with 7,540 COVID cases recorded in a single day.

Hospitalizations hit a new record on Tuesday with 2,735 people in hospitals receiving treatment for COVID-19.

Cooper stated in his op-ed that he does not want to issue tighter restrictions, citing struggle that many small businesses are facing amid the pandemic.

“They need significantly more financial support from the federal government, and I’ve repeatedly urged Congress and the President to pass a stimulus package that helps families and businesses before 2020 ends,” Cooper said.

Regarding the coronavirus vaccines, Cooper says that there is hope that we will see the other side of this pandemic, adding that he too plans to get the vaccine.

“I have confidence in this process and plan to roll up my sleeve when it’s my turn to get the vaccine,” he said.

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