Gov. Cooper calls on local governments to enforce COVID restrictions

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RALEIGH, NC (WWAY) — With COVID-19 vaccines arriving in North Carolina, Gov. Roy Cooper addressed the state Tuesday on what that means for us, and about what comes next.

Cooper says three hospitals in North Carolina received vaccine shipments Monday, and eight more received them Tuesday. Although this is a historic moment, he says we will have a ways to go before this pandemic is over.

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This first round of vaccines are for healthcare workers and those in long-term care facilities. North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen says it could be well into the spring until a vaccine is available for everyone.

Gov. Cooper says in the meantime, North Carolinians must follow state restrictions in order to slow the spread. He and other officials also sent a letter encouraging local governments to impose and enforce their own restrictions.

“Local governments can enforce safety protocols with civil penalties including fines for violations instead of criminal charges, which we believe could be more effective,” Cooper said. “Our aim is not to get people in trouble, it’s to get people to do the right things to slow the spread of this virus and to keep it from overwhelming our hospital systems.”

Cooper is also discouraging anyone from gathering for Christmas or New Year celebrations.

“We’re just seeing the Thanksgiving COVID-19 spike over the last few days, and the Christmas holidays could be even worse,” he said. “The safest option is to connect online or by phone and if you have to gather in person, try to get tested first, do it outdoors, limit the number of people, and wear a mask.”

Cooper announced a list of sites that are offering free COVID-19 tests.

Dr. Cohen expects 42 hospitals to receive the Pfizer vaccine by Thursday. She also says if the Moderna vaccine is approved Thursday, we could receive 175,000 of those vaccines next week.