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Cone Health expert cautions about increased COVID-19 cases as the state continues to move forward in Phase 2

The best place to be is inside your home or outside away from others. The concern now is people will no longer social distance and the disease will spread quicker.

GREENSBORO, N.C. — The unofficial start of summer kicked off over Memorial Day weekend. After spending the better part of April stuck inside and with restrictions easing a bit more as we enter Phase 2 many of our parks and beaches were crowded.

The loosening of restrictions comes with concern from state officials as they continue to preach social distancing while advising those in public to wear masks. Governor Roy Cooper reiterated that it's up to everyone to be responsible not only for themselves but for others during a recent news conference. 

The new guidelines have some doctors and the CEO at Cone Health a bit concerned, “This is a highly contagious disease, the number of cases in Guilford County and our surrounding area and across the state are on the rise,” Terry Akin, Cone Health CEO said.

Hospitalizations across the state have increased over the past few days. Monday saw the most cases to date as 627 people were in the hospital and 621 remain there as of Tuesday. The concern is when you compare those numbers to a few weeks ago when our state hovered around 430 hospitalizations. 

“I think the only way this works is for us to act as self-aware community members and we have to stay away from each other and wear face masks (in public),” Dr. Bruce Swords, Cone Health Chief Physician said.

Swords and Akin are concerned if we're not careful and mindful of social distancing, we could undo all the strides we’ve made as a state the past couple months. While we can go to restaurants and bars and churches and salons there is still a risk associated with it. 

“There are good evidence and good science behind the intersection of proximity and duration,” said Dr. Swords.

Basically, the closer you are to someone and the longer you spend with them, assuming they have the virus, the chances of getting it increases. There is also concern about being inside a building for a long period of time with air from others circulating all around you. 

“The science has shown any time that we are in a confined area with others, particularly airplanes, with recirculating air there is a heightened risk,” Dr. Swords said.

Neither Akin nor Dr. Swords are calling for a repeal of Phase 2 but they want to make sure everyone understands the risk has not gone away and the only way to control it right now is to social distance, wear masks and wash hands.

“We’re preparing for a worst-case, I don’t know if we’re preparing for the worst-case but certainly a worsening case,” Akin said.

Cone Health has seen hospitalizations increase from around 30 a couple of weeks ago to 66 on Tuesday. The number of hospitalizations is the highest so far, “We are seeing the evidence, unfortunately, that this journey is not over,” said Akin.

The question moving forward will be if hospitalizations continue to climb, will we continue to move to the next phase, wait or go back? The governor will certainly be keeping a close eye on all the data and numbers.

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