Gov. Cooper: NC schools will be closed for a while as crisis increases

Gov. Cooper: NC schools will be closed for a while as crisis increases
North Carolina has its first case of coronavirus from community spread, Gov. Roy Cooper said in a press conference Thursday afternoon. (Source: WRAL)

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Schools in North Carolina can expect to be closed for longer than the two weeks initially put in place by Gov. Roy Cooper.

Over the weekend, Cooper ordered public K-12 schools in the state to close for at least two weeks. Thursday, after confirming the first case of community spread COVID-19 in the state, Cooper said students will "likely be out of school for a longer period of time.”

“We’re going to be out of schools for a while. The order was until March 30, but I think people know with community spread now coming and this crisis increasing that we will likely be out of school for a longer period of time,” Cooper said.

Schools are working to provide meals for children and work on ways for children to learn remotely.

Saturday, the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction announced it received a waiver from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to allow schools and community organizations to provide food to students impacted by school closures.

Cooper said waivers have also been requested that would assist in feeding children whose daycare has closed.

Cooper says the outlook is unclear on how long schools will be closed. “We just don’t know how long at this point,” Cooper said.

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in North Carolina is at 97, according to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. Mecklenburg County reported 32 positive COVID-19 cases as of Thursday, and confirmed community spread in the county.

On Friday, just last week, figures from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services showed 15 cases across the state.

At that point, state health officials said we did not yet have community spread, and that those testing positive had either traveled or been in contact with someone with coronavirus.

“This is an expected but still an unfortunate benchmark in this pandemic," Cooper said of the first community spread-related coronavirus case in the state, which was in Wilson County. Mecklenburg County was the next county to confirm “community spread.”

Community spread, state leaders say, is “where we don’t know how someone contracted COVID-19.”

“Wilson County’s second confirmed presumptive positive has no know travel history and no known contact with another presumptive positive person,” Wilson County officials tweeted.

The confirmation of community spread is forcing state leaders to move into the “second phase of work.” The first phase was a “containment.”

“Confirmed community spread is a signal that we need to excel to the next phase of work, which is called mitigation,” state leaders said. "We know that this situation will get worse before it gets better.”

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At least 18 North Carolina counties have positive coronavirus cases, including the counties of Wake, Forsyth, Johnston, Harnett, Chatham, Durham, Wayne, Craven, Onslow, Lincoln and Brunswick.

According to Tryon Medical Partners, a patient of who they tested outside one of their facilities has tested positive for the COVID-19 virus. Tryon Medical Partners say they are opening their first remote testing location Tuesday.

An order for North Carolina remains in place to keep mass gatherings to 100 people or less.

Gov. Roy Cooper issued and executive order Tuesday that closed bars and restaurants to dine-in customers. The order also unlocked unemployment benefits for those who lost, or lose, their job during the coronavirus outbreak.

“Today I am taking down some of the barriers to unemployment benefits," Cooper said. “Grocery stores will remain open. I urge people not to go overboard. Leave some for others ...Especially for those who can’t afford to buy a lot all at once.”

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