Gov. Roy Cooper announced today that all K-12 schools in North Carolina will be closed beginning Monday for at least two weeks in response to the rapidly changing situation associated with COVID-19, the disease caused by a new coronavirus.
He also issued an executive order to prohibit gatherings of more than 100 people. He had issued guidance Thursday to cancel those mass gatherings, but said today that a number of venues were not complying, so his order makes it mandatory.
“Hindsight is 20/20,” Cooper explained at a press conference. “I don’t want any regrets in our rear-view mirror when this pandemic subsides. … This is a risk we cannot tolerate. … No concert is worth the spread of this pandemic.”
The executive order does not apply to restaurants, shopping malls or other retail businesses.
Cooper’s announcement about school closures came 24 hours after he said schools would remain open. However, earlier today, Wake County announced a teacher had tested positive for the virus. The Governor said the teacher’s situation didn’t factor into the new decision, but that it was intended to address the patchwork of school closures across the state.
“We need a period of time here to assess the threat of COVID-19 and to make sure we have a coordinated statewide response to deal with the fallout when you don’t have children in schools,” Cooper said. “I’m not sure there is a right or wrong here because there is so much we don’t know. If we are going to err here, we want to err on the side of caution.”
Cooper has appointed a child nutrition task force to work on ways to ensure low-income students can still be fed and have their immediate needs met while out of school.
North Carolina Board of Education Chair Eric Davis also said they are committed to mitigating the impact of the school closures by helping to coordinate food delivery for students and asking the General Assembly to give waivers to school districts. The Board is also working with higher education systems in their responses to the virus.
State Superintendent Mark Johnson said at the Saturday press conference that the decision to close schools was not one they wanted to make, but it is “the right decision.” He said the school districts have been planning for the past week on how to cope with closures.
There have been 23 positive COVID-19 cases in 12 North Carolina counties, according to the state Department of Health and Human Services. DHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen said health officials are continuing to test individuals who have a fever, cough and test negative for the flu.
The situation regarding testing supplies has improved, but she said it’s important to note that getting tested does not mean getting treatment. She added that while testing is an important in the first phase of this work, they are trying to make sure sick people can be treated.
COVID-19 responses are developing and changing multiple times per day. Follow NC Policy Watch for updates as they become available.