As North Carolina heads into a balmy July Fourth weekend, state health officials are urging residents to take precautions while they celebrate in light of a continued rise in cases of Covid-19. 

“The best way we can honor our country is by honoring each other. Wear a face covering to protect your loved ones and neighbors,” Department of Health and Human Services secretary Mandy Cohen said at a Thursday press conference.

Wednesday saw the state’s highest single-day spike in infections to date, with 1,843 new cases of the virus reported. As of Thursday, more than 68,000 North Carolinians have tested positive for the virus, 912 remain hospitalized, and 1,391 have died. Nearly one million tests have been completed in the state and there are currently more than 500 testing sites open.

While many key trends, including hospitalizations, had appeared to level in May prompting Governor Roy Cooper to greenlight businesses and restaurants to reopen with restrictions, the state is now seeing cases spike again. Cohen said many states are currently experiencing a dangerous increase in cases, with some states acknowledging they started reopening too quickly.

“We are not in dire straights like some around us,” Cohen said. “We have reason to be concerned though.”

Not only is the number of cases growing, Cohen said, but it’s growing more quickly as evidenced by a record number of cases reported in a single day being set week after week. Part of this is attributed to an increase in testing⁠—we’re now conducting about 20,000 tests a day⁠—as the percentage of positive cases has leveled between 8 and 10 percent. However, Cohen said she’d like to see that number closer to 5 percent. 

July Fourth weekend is set to be hot and sunny. Cohen encouraged residents to continue to practice social distancing, wear face masks in public, wash hands frequently, and wait six feet apart from others. 

“This isn’t where I’d hoped we be for July Fourth weekend and unfortunately we don’t get a holiday from Covid-19,” Cohen said. “We can celebrate but we have to do so responsibly.”  

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