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NC DHHS suggests limiting gatherings to no more than 50 people

In an effort to slow the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and reduce the number of people infected, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NC DHHS) is recommending event organizers cancel or postpone in-person events that consist of 50 people or more.

NC DHHS had originally set that number at 100, but lowered its recommendation to 50 on Sunday.

Dr. Elizabeth Tilson, NC DHHS Director, suggested the recommendation needs to be in place for the next eight weeks.

Meanwhile, an Executive Order issued Saturday (March 14) by Governor Roy Cooper on March 14 that prohibits gatherings of 100 or more people in a single place remains in effect.

That directive is a punishable offense. Those in violation can be charged with a misdemeanor.

Cooper strongly recommended that organizers of such events should offer online streaming services as an alternative.

These events include large gatherings where people are in close contact (less than 6 feet), such as concerts, conferences, sporting events, faith-based events and other large gatherings.

The ban on gatherings does not include airports, bus and train stations, medical facilities, libraries, shopping malls and spaces where people may be in transit. Office environments, restaurants, factories, or retail or grocery stores are also excluded.

NC DHHS officials said religious organizations can consider alternatives to mass gatherings to support their congregations’ social and spiritual well-being. They can consider options like connecting by phone, using other technologies that support social distancing and/or facilitating small group meetings to ensure that people at high risk of complications from COVID-19 are less likely to be exposed to the virus.

As of Tuesday morning (March 17), NC DHHS reported 40 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the state, up by five from Monday. Fifteen of those cases are in Wake County and four are in Harnett County. None of those cases have resulted in death.

Nationally, there are 3,536 cases, of which 68 have resulted in death.