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Looking Ahead: Will North Carolina Enter Phase 3 on September 11?

By Nathan Ham

Most people are probably sick and tired of hearing about the phases of reopening by this point. There could be a hint of optimism on the horizon though as North Carolina is now less than three weeks away from the potential beginning of Phase 3 and another step to normalcy.

Looking at the COVID-19 data provided by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, the number of hospitalizations from the virus has been on a small but steady decline since hitting its peak of 1,236 on July 28. Hospitalizations dropped to below 1,000 on August 15 for the first time in over a month with 964 patients in hospitals across the state. The numbers did briefly jump back above 1,000 from August 17-20, however have been declining each day since then. As of August 22, 898 people were hospitalized due to COVID-19.

The number of daily cases of the virus is still higher than health experts would like to see, but still below the highest total of 2,344 cases reported on July 30. There have been drops as low as 564 new cases reported on August 17 to peaks as high as 2,008 reported on August 21.

As has been the case since the phased reopening plans were introduced, there are four metrics that state officials are looking at to aid their decisions on proceeding to the next phase. The first metric is a sustained leveling or decreased trajectory on COVID-like illness surveillance over 14 days. According to the latest update on August 13, those are on a decline across the state. North Carolina’s trajectory of lab-confirmed cases and positive cases has started to decline as well, which are two metrics that need to take place for 14 consecutive days. The final metric is a 14-day sustained decrease in hospitalizations, which is has leveled off and appears it may be on a decline, but not for the 14 straight days needed.

The three biggest changes that are set to happen whenever Phase 3 begins will be the reopening of bars, gyms/fitness centers, and entertainment venues like movie theaters, concert venues, and sporting arenas.