North Carolina schools to remain closed for rest of school year, governor says


RALEIGH, N.C. — Gov. Roy Cooper has closed North Carolina schools for the rest of the school year, he announced Friday.

Cooper added that the state is partnering with AT&T to set up 100 internet hotspots on school buses and another 80 thanks to the Duke Energy Foundation.

Cooper first closed schools across the state by executive order on March 16. The initial order was only set to run for two weeks.

Since then, school districts have turned to distance learning online to make sure that students are continuing to get an education.

“We want our schools to be safe and our children to be safe. And, I am so proud of our teachers, teacher assistants, cafeteria workers, bus drivers, our parents,” said Cooper.

Conversations around when and how to open the state have become a point of contention as protests have begun to erupt again stay-at-home orders. Cooper extended the state’s stay-at-home order until May 8 on Thursday.

The governor said that North Carolina is flattening the curve but is not ready to fully lift restrictions. He also said NC needs an increase in testing and trends need to be headed in the right direction. 

Cooper shared information about how North Carolina can gradually re-open over three phases to prevent hot spots of viral spread while also beginning to bring the economy back. These phases are based on the best information available now but could be altered as new information emerges. 

Phase one will not begin until after May 8 at the earliest.

In Phase 1:

  • Modify the Stay At Home order allow travel not currently defined as essential allowing people to leave home for commercial activity at any business that is allowed to be open, such as clothing stores, sporting goods stores, book shops, houseware stores and other retailers. 
  • Ensure that any open stores implement appropriate employee and consumer social distancing, enhanced hygiene and cleaning protocols, symptom screening of employees, accommodations for vulnerable workers, and provide education to employees and workers to combat misinformation 
  • Continue to limit gatherings to no more than 10 people
  • Reopen parks that have been closed subject to the same gathering limitation. Outdoor exercise will continue to be encouraged. 
  • Continue to recommend face coverings in public spaces when 6 feet of distancing isn’t possible
  • Encourage employers to continue teleworking policies
  • Continue rigorous restrictions on nursing homes and other congregant care settings 
  • Local emergency orders with more restrictive measures may remain in place. 

Phase 2

At least 2-3 weeks after Phase 1

  • Lift Stay At Home order with strong encouragement for vulnerable populations to continue staying at home to stay safe
  • Allow limited opening of restaurants, bars, fitness centers, personal care services, and other businesses that can follow safety protocols including the potential need to reduce capacity
  • Allow gathering at places such as houses of worship and entertainment venues at reduced capacity
  • Increase in number of people allowed at gatherings
  • Open public playgrounds
  • Continue rigorous restrictions on nursing homes and other congregant care settings 

Phase 3

At least 4-6 weeks after Phase 2

  • Lessen restrictions for vulnerable populations with encouragement to continue practicing physical distancing and minimizing exposure to settings where distancing isn’t possible
  • Allow increased capacity at restaurants, bars, other businesses, houses of worships, and entertainment venues
  • Further increase the number of people allowed at gatherings
  • Continue rigorous restrictions on nursing homes and other congregant care settings 

If infections spike or benchmarks are not being met, Cooper says we may have to move back to a previous phase to protect public health.

North Carolinians who were furloughed, but still received a severance payment, can now get more help by filing for unemployment.

Gov. Roy Cooper announced Tuesday that he was signing an executive order so that furloughed workers who received severance or a furlough payment could still receive unemployment.

Before this order, furloughed workers who received severance or a furlough payment were ineligible.

Cooper added that he hopes to work with the General Assembly to “get consensus on more help for North Carolina” next week.

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