During a Jan. 12 press briefing, Gov. Roy Cooper and North Carolina DHHS Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen encouraged people to become vaccinated against COVID-19 when possible.

Cooper opened up the briefing talking about the importance of using facts to overcome disinformation first as it relates to last week’s insurrection at the Capitol, then as it relates to the spread of the virus.

“Words are powerful,” he said. “They can be used to help or harm. Last week, we saw how the words of elected leaders can cost lives. Lies and misinformation have cost lives in the pandemic as well.”

Cooper and Cohen both discussed just how bad the spread of the virus is in the state, with Cooper calling it “dire.”

“We’re in the midst of our most dangerous moment yet,” Cohen said. “On Saturday, we had well over 11,000 new cases reported in just 24 hours. She added that the situation is pushing the health care system as well and that 84% of ICU beds across the state are in use.

“Our hospitals are stretched,” she said.

During the briefing, the state unveiled the “Your Spot, Your Shot” initiative, which encourages residents to receive the vaccine when it becomes available to them. Cohen focused largely on conveying skepticism she’s heard regarding the vaccine from minority communities, skepticism she said she understands, given the history of medical inequities that have impacted those groups.

“Too often it’s the color of someone’s skin that predicts their health outcomes,” she said.

The video accompanying the unveiling of the “Your Spot, Your Shot” campaign largely depicted leaders from communities of color, as well as a Marine Corps veteran.

While leaders are strongly encouraging people to receive the vaccine and have said they want to administer all the vaccines that are currently sitting on shelves as quickly as possible, Cohen admitted that not everyone will have quick access.

“There will still be a wait for most people,” she said.

In the meantime, Cooper and Cohen continue to encourage folks to follow the guidelines to minimize the spread of COVID-19, especially as test positivity rates continue to rapidly rise in surrounding states.

“We cannot let down our guard,” she said. “North Carolinians should stay home and only leave for essential tasks.”

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