North Carolina governor declares state of emergency over coronavirus

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper (D) declared a state of emergency Tuesday over the spread of coronavirus, one day after health officials announced that seven people in the state have been diagnosed with the virus that has infected tens of thousands of people worldwide.

“We’ve analyzed the situation using available data and science. We’ve discussed options with health experts, business leaders and emergency management here and in other states. The new cases and the advice of these experts have led us to give new guidance to North Carolina residents and to declare a state of emergency for our state,” Cooper said in a Tuesday press conference.

“Our most important work is keeping people healthy and safe," Cooper added.

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The governor said the main purpose of declaring the state of emergency is “increased flexibility to respond and prevent as well as to allocate funds where needed” to fight the spread of the virus. The state of emergency can also give health emergency managers in the state “more budget flexibility.”

Cooper added that the declaration can protect consumers from price gouging and encourage “insurers to make testing available for little or no cost.”

North Carolina health officials announced Monday that five additional people who traveled in late February to attend a Biogen corporate conference had been infected with the virus, the Raleigh News & Observer reported.

Officials confirmed at the Thursday conference that the state has enough kits to test 300 people and is hoping to be able to test another 1,500 by next week.

Mandy Cohen, state Health and Human Services secretary, said at the conference that officials are not recommending any school closures in the state.

The declaration also makes the state eligible for federal emergency funding, the Raleigh News and Observer reported.

All University of North Carolina hospitals in the state will dedicate space to setting up temporary triage and testing sites at their facilities where people can be screened for coronavirus. The centers will allow health care workers to determine which patients can be sent home so that hospitals do not become overwhelmed by those being tested or by confirmed cases if the virus spreads, the newspaper reported.