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'We are in a dire situation' | Gov. Cooper urges North Carolinians to follow COVID-19 safety protocols

"The truth is that this disease is spreading fast," Gov. Cooper said as he urged North Carolinians to take health and safety recommendations seriously.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — North Carolina's governor, Roy Cooper, and the state task force gave an update on COVID-19 in North Carolina Tuesday afternoon. 

Gov. Cooper opened the news conference with a dire warning for North Carolinians. 

"The truth is that this disease is spreading fast. We are in a dire situation," Gov. Cooper said. "The truth is, in order to save lives, people need to follow the safety protocols we have in place." 

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On Tuesday the state reported 6,851 new COVID-19 cases with 7,638 total deaths. 3,940 people are currently hospitalized and the state is sitting at a 14.7% daily percent positive. 

Gov. Cooper also stressed the importance of leaders listening to science and focusing on facts. 

"Words matter. People listen to leaders and often follow their calls and imitate their actions," Cooper said. 

Cooper continues to stress the importance of wearing a mask and practicing social distancing. He is asking people to avoid gatherings with people who aren’t in their household. 

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"These simple measures work," Cooper said. 

Watch the live COVID-19 briefing below. Can't view the video? Click here.

In the news conference, Gov. Cooper said the state is continuing to see a steady increase in vaccination rates, which he expects to continue. 

He said NC DHHS is working with several local communities to stand up large-scale vaccination events. 

"I know many of you are worried about your loved ones and yourselves and want to get vaccines as soon as possible," Cooper said. "Right now, local health providers are vaccinating health care workers who are treating COVID-19 patients and next are people age 75+, some areas have already started." 

Gov. Cooper said that right now, the vaccine supply is severely limited, but the goal is to distribute as quickly as possible all the vaccines that the state was given. 

"People are working night and day to make that happen," Gov. Cooper said. 

RELATED: Where to receive your coronavirus vaccine in the Carolinas

During a briefing last week, Dr. Mandy Cohen, secretary for North Carolina Department of Health and Human Service emphasized the concern.

"This is the most worried I've ever been," said Dr. Cohen. "Because of the widespread virus, there's a high risk you have COVID and don't know it."

Last week, Gov. Roy Cooper's extended the modified stay-at-home order for three more weeks starting at 5 p.m.

"With hospitals feeling the strain and more people sick, there has never been a more important time to take this seriously," Cooper said Wednesday.

Cohen also said that 96 of the state's 100 counties are in the orange or red zone for community spread of the virus. Cohen said the amount of coronavirus in the state is "alarming."

RELATED: North Carolina COVID-19 cases continue to soar, over 11,000 single-day cases reported

Daily cases of the virus remain high with county leaders placing Mecklenburg in the 'Red Zone' when it comes to community spread and percent positive cases. About 16% of individuals tested were positive for COVID-19 over the last week in the county. 

The county began Phase 1B Group 1 of the vaccination process last week which included vaccinating anyone over the age of 75.  

The county made 5,000 appointments available on its website for the month of January, which filled up quickly early last week. Private healthcare systems have also opened up appointments.

While the number of vaccines available remains below the level needed to vaccinate everyone in Phase 1A and 1B, health officials have been confident in the process set up to allow those who want to get vaccinated to do so. 

“Once we have a better feel as we move into the month with the amount of vaccine that we're going to have available to us then we can open up additional appointments,” said Harris.