On Tuesday, Gov. Roy Cooper and his Coronavirus Task Force announced that Group 5 will be open for everyone 16 years and older to receive the vaccine beginning today.

Cooper said North Carolina’s COVID-19 metrics have been stable over the past month as restrictions across the state are eased as the percentage of tests returning positive remains steady and hospitalizations leveled.

“This is good,” he said. “Although North Carolina remains in a stable position, we cannot let our guard down. This is especially true as we see rising numbers in other parts of the country and across the world.”

The virus is still present, and infectious variants are spreading across the nation, Cooper said as a caution to remain vigilant.

“We need to continue to be careful and responsible,” he said.

This led Cooper to discuss how many people may be curious about how the summer will look in the coming months and what to expect. By consulting health experts, listening to businesses, and following the science and data, he said he hopes to bring a forecast of what to expect as summer approaches by July 4.

However, Cooper said the state remains focused on getting people vaccinated as quickly and equitably as possible in continuing to slow the spread of the virus.

“The more people we vaccinate, the more we can safely do,” he said. “North Carolina continues to make progress on that front.”

Cooper said more than 5.2M vaccinations had been administered in the state, with almost 40% of adults partially vaccinated and more than a fourth of the adults fully vaccinated. He then highlighted the most vulnerable, people 65 years and older, with 73% receiving the first dose and more than 65% are fully vaccinated.

“This is great news,” Cooper said. “Because of the hard work of our providers and commitment of North Carolinians to take their shot, we’re getting people vaccinated more quickly than we predicted. This will help us turn the corner on the pandemic even sooner.”

Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen of the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services provided an update on the state’s current status with COVID-19. Cohen showed data where people visiting the emergency room with COVID-like symptoms have nearly reached a normal baseline, and the number of positive cases since February has leveled.

“This is good news as other regions in the country are seeing increases in their COVID cases,” she said.

Cohen also highlighted the number of positive tests have leveled and averaging at about 5%.

A new update on the COVID-19 County Alert System as of Friday displayed two new color-coded categories:

• Critical Community Spread/Red

• Substantial Community Spread/Orange

• Significant Community Spread/Yellow

• Moderate Community Spread/Light Yellow

• Low Community Spread/Green

Halifax County is in the Yellow and Northampton County is in the Light Yellow. Alleghany County is the only county color-coded green.

Cohen said that close to half of the counties in the state are yellow.

“This is the first county alert map where there are no red counties, and this is great news,” she said.

Cohen then echoed the results of the vaccines administered throughout the state. However, she said only the Pfizer vaccine is authorized for 16 and 17-year-olds. Visiting myspot.nc.gov will provide more information to help young adults find where they can get the Pfizer vaccine, Cohen said.

“We did not get here by accident,” she said. “Our progress is the result of North Carolinians doing what it takes to protect one another day in and day out.”

Cohen said the progress could not have happened without the help of the public health workers, which this week happens to be National Public Health Week.

“To all of our public health workers, thank you,” she said. “Thank you for the incredible work you’ve done to protect North Carolinians and save lives.”

Cooper responded to a question where he was asked about discussions surrounding vaccine passports.

“We think that anybody who wants to get a record of their vaccine should be able to get that record,” he said.

Cohen followed up on the question and said the NCDHHS collects information on people vaccinated and allows people to have access to their own information.

“We’re looking at different IT solutions to make that as easy as possible for folks,” she said. “We know that there are a few states that have already done that, and we’re looking at a number of vendor partners that we can work within the next couple of weeks — again, just to make things easy for folks to get their own information.”

Another question followed up on the vaccination passports on the clarification between personal information access and government-mandated passports that have drawn concerns.

However, Cooper reiterated his previous response but elaborated to address the concerns.

“Obviously, you need to be careful with civil liberties and privacy,” he said. “but we think that that ought to be available to anybody who asks for it. And so, the department is working on the best way to do that.”