North Carolina tightened restrictions on gatherings Tuesday as the number of COVID-19 cases continued to increase statewide and Pitt County recorded three more deaths, bringing the total to 44.
The deaths occurred on Oct. 31, Nov. 1 and Nov. 2, according to data from the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services. The Oct. 31 death was the 11th local COVID-19 death in the month of October. Eleven people also died in September.
DHHS provides little information about people who died. Data showed that two were men and one was a woman. Two were black and one was white. Two were between 65-74 and one was 75 or older.
Pitt County reported 28 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, up from five cases the day before. The county has now reported 6,693 cases since the first case was identified in March.
Gov. Roy Cooper on Tuesday announced the state 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.
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 said that churches and restaurants would be unaffected by the updated guidance. The executive order will remain in place until Dec. 4.
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 perecent of tests come back positive recently, a statistic it wants to see drop below 5 percent.
DHHS Secretary Many 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.”
The United States surpassed 1 million new confirmed coronavirus cases in just the first 10 days of November, with more than 100,000 infections each day becoming the norm in a surge that shows no signs of slowing, the Associated Press reported.
The milestone came as governors across the nation are making increasingly desperate pleas with the public to take the fight against the virus more seriously. The Wisconsin governor planned to take the unusual step of delivering a live address to the state Tuesday, urging unity and cooperation to fight COVID-19.
Minnesota’s governor ordered bars and restaurants to close at 10 p.m., and Iowa’s governor said she will require masks at indoor gatherings of 25 or more people, inching toward more stringent measures after months of holding out.