Following New CDC Guidance on Face Coverings, Governor Cooper Lifts Many COVID-19 Restrictions

News, Press Release
face stay at home in-person instruction

RALEIGH: Today, Governor Roy Cooper and North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy K. Cohen, M.D. shared an update on the state’s COVID-19 progress. Throughout the pandemic, state officials have taken a data-driven approach and have been guided by the science in making decisions. Following yesterday’s guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that fully vaccinated individuals can safely do most activities without wearing a mask or the need to social distance from others, the state will remove its indoor mask mandate for most settings. Additionally, the state will lift all mass gathering limits and social distancing requirements. These changes are now in effect as of 1:30 PM today.

“We can take this step today because the science shows our focus on getting people vaccinated is working,” said Governor Cooper. “But to keep moving forward – and to make sure that we keep saving lives – more people need to get vaccinated.”

The ability to lift restrictions sooner than anticipated following the CDC’s guidance shows the importance of vaccinating all North Carolinians. As of this week, even more people can get vaccinated. Younger teens between 12 and 15 can now get the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. Young people are vulnerable to the COVID-19 virus, just like everyone else, and the percent of COVID-19 cases in North Carolina children 17 and under has been increasing.

North Carolina continues to focus on distributing vaccines quickly and equitably. To date, the state has administered over 7.7 million doses. 51% percent of those 18 and up are at least partially vaccinated, and 46% percent of those 18 and up have been fully vaccinated.

“I am so proud of the incredible progress we have made in beating back this pandemic,” said Secretary Mandy K. Cohen, M.D. “Vaccines continue to be incredibly effective at protecting individuals from this terrible virus. And as more and more people get vaccinated, the results show in our stable metrics with lower cases, lower hospitalizations, and lower deaths.”

In accordance with the new CDC guidance, there will still be certain settings where masks and other safety measures will be required. Masks will still be required in child care, schools and camps as most children are either not yet vaccinated or are not yet eligible to be vaccinated. Everyone, including people who are fully vaccinated will still be required to wear a mask in certain settings such as public transportation, health care settings like hospitals, doctor’s offices and long-term care settings like nursing homes, and certain congregate settings like correctional facilities and homeless shelters.

NCDHHS will continue to have strong public health recommendations for individuals to continue to protect one another until more people are vaccinated. People who are not vaccinated should wear a mask and maintain distance in all indoor public settings and in outdoor settings when they can’t maintain six feet of distance.

Masks are strongly recommended for everyone at large crowded indoor events like sporting events and live performances.

NCDHHS recommends public facing businesses post signage reminding guests to social distance and wear a face covering if they are not fully vaccinated; remind employees to self-monitor for symptoms of COVID-19; have a plan to immediately isolate and remove sick workers; and clean high-touch surfaces once a day. Businesses may choose to continue to require that their customers wear masks.

The Department of Health and Human Services will also continue to expand strategies to reach people who have not yet gotten vaccinated.

Information on the state’s vaccine distribution is available at YourSpotYourShot.nc.gov (English) or Vacunate.nc.gov (Spanish). People can find nearby vaccine providers using NCDHHS’ online tool, Find a Vaccine Location. The state’s COVID-19 vaccine hotline number is 888-675-4567.

Read the Executive Order.

Read a FAQ about today’s Order.

Governor Cooper Proclaims Teacher Appreciation Week May 3 – 7

Community, Press Release
Teacher appreciation week

RALEIGH: Governor Roy Cooper has proclaimed May 3 – 7, 2021 as Teacher Appreciation Week and May 4, 2021 as Teacher Appreciation Day, to honor and support North Carolina’s educators and recognize their significant impact on our children and the future of our state.

“North Carolina’s educators work tirelessly to teach and support our children, including through a pandemic, and they deserve our gratitude, admiration and respect,” Governor Cooper said. “Educators also deserve to be paid like the professionals they are. North Carolina must do better in teacher pay.”

According to an April 2021 report by the National Education Association, North Carolina ranks 33rd in the nation for teacher pay, down from 31st in the 2018-19 school year and well below the national average. Governor Cooper has long sought better pay for North Carolina’s public school teachers, including meaningful raises for teachers in each of his annual budget proposals.

Governor Cooper proposed a budget this year that includes a 10 percent raise for K-12 teachers over the next two years. Additionally, Cooper proposed that public school teachers receive bonuses totaling $3,000 this year and an additional $1,000 bonus in October 2022. State legislators have yet to act on Cooper’s most recent teacher pay proposals.

During budget negotiations in 2019, General Assembly leadership and the Governor could not reach an agreement on teacher raises, and as a result, teachers did not receive a raise in the last budget cycle. Governor Cooper has vowed to work with legislators to get this year’s budget passed and is committed to ensuring better pay for teachers.

Read the proclamation.

Feature image courtesy of Gerry Dincher

Gov. Cooper Issues Executive Order to Relax State’s Outdoor Mask Mandate and Ease Mass Gathering Limits

News, Press Release
mask mandate

RALEIGH: Today, Governor Roy Cooper and North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy K. Cohen, M.D. gave an update on the state’s current data, trends and vaccination progress. As the state’s metrics and key indicators remain stable, Governor Cooper also signed an Executive Order outlining safety measures for the month of May. Executive Order No. 209 will take effect April 30 and is set to expire June 1. As more North Carolinians get vaccinated and adhere to safety protocols over the course of the next month, the state anticipates lifting more restrictions on June 1.

“While our numbers are mostly stable, we have more work to do to beat back this pandemic,” said Governor Cooper. “Let’s work hard in May and get as many people vaccinated as we can before summer gets here.”

Under the new Executive Order, masks will still be required indoors but are no longer mandated outdoors. Masks are still strongly recommended outdoors by NC DHHS in crowded areas and higher risk settings where social distancing is difficult.

Executive Order No. 209 will also increase mass gathering capacity limits. The number of people who may gather indoors will increase from 50 to 100 and the number of people who may gather outdoors will increase from 100 to 200. Occupancy limits currently in place will remain the same.

“Fortunately, we now have enough vaccine for everyone. They are free and widely available across the state. In many places you don’t need appointment,” said Secretary Cohen. “For those who have questions, I encourage you to go to YourSpotYourShot.nc.gov to learn about the benefits of the vaccines, potential temporary reactions you might experience, and answers to common questions.”

North Carolina continues to focus on distributing vaccines quickly and equitably. To date, the state has administered over 7 million doses. 48.7% percent of those 18 and up are at least partially vaccinated, and 39.2% percent of those 18 and up have been fully vaccinated.

State health officials are continuing to monitor COVID-19 and its more contagious variants in North Carolina, which is why it is important to continue to follow the state’s mask mandate and continue to practice safety precautions, including the Three Ws—wear a mask, wait 6 feet apart, and wash hands often.

Dr. Cohen also provided an update on North Carolina’s data and trends.

Trajectory in COVID-Like Illness (CLI) Surveillance Over 14 Days

  • North Carolina’s syndromic surveillance trend for COVID-like illness is level.

Trajectory of Confirmed Cases Over 14 Days

  • North Carolina’s trajectory of cases is level.

Trajectory in Percent of Tests Returning Positive Over 14 Days

  • North Carolina’s trajectory in percent of tests returning positive is level.

Trajectory in Hospitalizations Over 14 Days

  • North Carolina’s trajectory of hospitalizations is level.

In addition to monitoring these metrics, the state continues to respond to virus spread in testing, tracing and prevention.

Read Executive Order No. 209.

Read Frequently Asked Questions.

Governor Cooper Signs Three Executive Orders to Help Struggling North Carolinians

News, Press Release
North Carolinians

RALEIGH: Today, Governor Roy Cooper signed three Executive Orders. Executive Order 206 extends North Carolina’s statewide residential eviction moratorium through June 30, 2021 in coordination with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s recent extension of the nationwide moratorium through the same date. Executive Order 207 expedites the processing of unemployment insurance claims and is also effective through June 30, 2021. Executive Order 205 extends the North Carolina Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission (ABC Commission)’s authorization to permit the delivery or carry-out of mixed beverages as an alternative to on-site consumption through April 30, 2021.

“Even though North Carolina is turning the corner on this pandemic, many are still struggling,” said Governor Cooper. “These Executive Orders will help families stay in their homes and help hard-hit businesses increase their revenue.”

The CDC continues to implement a nationwide residential eviction moratorium for tenants who meet certain criteria to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. As North Carolina continues a fast and fair vaccine distribution operation, it is critical to slow the spread of the virus. With many people struggling financially due to this pandemic, the State’s eviction moratorium halts evictions for nonpayment of rent and sets forth certain procedures for landlords and their tenants who may qualify for protection from eviction.

As renters struggled to stay in their homes due to pandemic hardships, Governor Cooper created the HOPE Program to make direct payments to landlords and keep people safely in their homes. To date, HOPE has awarded over $140 million to nearly 37,000 applicants.

Federal Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) was recently approved by Congress and North Carolina received more than $700 million to continue providing relief to renters and landlords. The State is working with the General Assembly and local governments to launch the updated version of rental assistance very soon.

Executive Order 207 expedites the processing of unemployment insurance claims, a measure that has been in place under previous Orders.

Under Executive Order 205, establishments holding certain permits from the ABC Commission, including restaurants, hotels, private clubs, private bars, and some distilleries, will continue to be allowed to sell mixed beverages to-go or for delivery.

The Council of State concurred with the two Orders requiring it, Executive Orders 205 and 206.

Read the Eviction Moratorium Executive Order and Frequently Asked Questions document.

Read the Processing of Unemployment Insurance Claims Executive Order.

Read the To-Go Beverages Executive Order and Frequently Asked Questions document.

Cooper Reminds North Carolinians to Prepare and Practice for Severe Weather

Business
severe weather preparedness week

RALEIGH: Governor Roy Cooper has declared March 7-13 Severe Weather Preparedness Week and urges North Carolinians to prepare and practice safety plans in case severe weather strikes.

Severe thunderstorms and tornadoes are not unusual in North Carolina, and while spring is the most active season for severe weather, the recent thunderstorms that resulted in a deadly tornado prove they can happen anytime of the year.

“All North Carolinians need to prepare for severe weather, especially severe thunderstorms and tornados,” Governor Cooper said. “We have seen the devastation and deadly results these storms can bring. Having a preparedness plan, an emergency kit and a way to stay alert to weather reports will help protect you and your loved ones.”

On Wednesday, March 10 at 9:30 a.m., there will be a statewide tornado drill. This year, North Carolinians are being asked to practice their emergency plan using COVID-19 safety precautions. For those working remotely or at your place of employment, go to the lowest floor and the most interior room of the building you’re in, while wearing a mask and staying at least 6-feet away from people with whom you don’t live.

Test messages will be broadcast via the Emergency Alert System on radio and TV and on National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) weather radios.

“We recognize the challenges of holding a tornado drill in the workplace during COVID. If possible, hold the drill in small groups at different times, where social distancing can be maintained but still allows everyone to have the experience. The drill is a great way to practice what to do when severe weather strikes,” said Emergency Management Director Mike Sprayberry.

North Carolina is no stranger to severe weather. In 2020, North Carolina recorded 48 tornado touchdowns, including one that spun up as a result of Hurricane Isaias in Bertie County, leaving two people dead. There were also 247 flood or flash flood events across the state and 609 severe thunderstorms with damaging winds or hail of 1-inch or larger.

Tornadoes form during severe thunderstorms when winds change direction and increase in speed. These storms can produce large hail and damaging winds that can reach 300 miles per hour. A tornado can develop rapidly with little warning, so having a plan in place will allow you to respond quickly.

Emergency Management officials recommend the following safety tips:

  • Develop a family emergency plan so each member knows what to do, where to go and who to call during an emergency.
  • If thunder roars, go indoors! Lightning is close enough to strike you.
  • Know where the nearest safe room is, such as a basement or interior room away from windows.
  • Know the terms: WATCH means severe weather is possible. WARNING means severe weather is occurring; take shelter immediately.
  • Assemble an emergency supply kit for use at home or in your vehicle. Make sure to include a 3-day supply of non-perishable food and bottled water.
  • If driving, leave your vehicle immediately to seek shelter in a safe structure. Do not try to outrun a tornado in your vehicle and do not stop under an overpass or bridge.
  • If there is no shelter available, take cover in a low-lying flat area.

Read Governor Cooper’s proclamation and get more information on tornadoes and overall emergency preparedness online at www.ReadyNC.org.

Feature image courtesy of Georgia Storm Troopers.

Governor Cooper, State Education Leaders Say it’s Time for In-Person Instruction

News, Press Release
face stay at home in-person instruction

RALEIGH – Top state education leaders joined Governor Roy Cooper today to call on K-12 school districts across the state to allow in-person instruction for all students. The Governor joined North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) Secretary Mandy Cohen, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Catherine Truitt and State Board of Education Chair Eric Davis to thank educators for their extraordinary work during an unprecedented time, to highlight ongoing research that shows that with proper mitigation measures, in-person learning is safe, and to emphasize the critical importance of ensuring all students have an opportunity to learn in a classroom.

“Protecting the health and safety of the people of this state, especially our children and our teachers, has been our goal,” said Governor Cooper. “We know school is important for reasons beyond academic instruction. School is where students learn social skills, get reliable meals, and find their voices. Research done right here in North Carolina tells us that in-person learning is working and that students can be in classrooms safely with the right safety protocols in place.”

Since the beginning of the pandemic, state leaders have emphasized the importance of returning students to in-person learning as quickly and safely as possible. Children who rely solely on remote instruction are feeling the negative effects of isolation, including learning loss, mental health challenges and food insecurity. The state’s public health toolkit details specific health and safety protocols K-12 schools must implement to keep students and teachers safe during in-person instruction.

Read the updated StrongSchools NC Public Health Toolkit.

“Even with the thousands of students and teachers attending school in-person across the state, we have seen few COVID-19 clusters in our public schools,” said NCDHHS Secretary Mandy K. Cohen, M.D. “Our Department will continue to serve our school communities, offering resources and support so we can keep our school doors open.”

Increasing evidence suggests that, with prevention measures in place, there are low rates of COVID-19 transmission in primary and secondary school settings even with high rates of community transmission. In addition, ongoing medical studies and peer-reviewed data affirm that children infected with COVID-19 generally have mild or no symptoms, and are less likely to spread the disease. Read more at What are We Learning.

“Learning loss resulting from COVID has the potential to be a generational hurdle, but the data we have seen shows us that schools can reopen safely if they adhere to COVID prevention policies,” said Superintendent of Public Instruction Catherine Truitt. “For many schools, the logistics of returning to in-person instruction five days per week will be a challenge, but this is absolutely a challenge we must face head on so that all students have a chance to fulfill their potential. With strong prevention measures in place, and the scientific research to back them, now is the time to act. North Carolina’s students cannot lose any more time.”

“We know that to equitably and fully address the needs of the whole child in every student, it is imperative that schools reopen for in-person instruction,” said State Board Chairman Eric Davis. “Since August, public school leaders have proven the merits of the safety protocols that have kept our schools safe for students and staff.”

The Governor and state health and education officials have made protecting the health and safety of students and educators the top priority since the beginning of the pandemic, moving to fully remote learning last Spring and giving local school districts the flexibility to gradually return to the classroom in September.

Today, Governor Cooper, Superintendent Truitt, Chair Davis and Secretary Cohen sent a letter to local school board members and superintendents encouraging in-person instruction across the state.

Read the letter state leaders sent to school board members and superintendents.

North Carolina has now administered more than 1 million COVID-19 doses across the state. Today, two new resources that will help provide North Carolinians with more information on vaccines were announced. First, the state’s call center has now expanded its operations and will be open seven days a week to help answer questions about vaccine eligibility, how the vaccines work and more. The number for the call center is: 888-675-4567. Additionally, NCDHHS launched an online search tool where users can enter their ZIP code or current location to find nearby vaccine providers.

North Carolina Extends Modified Stay At Home Order as Numbers Begin to Stabilize in an Effort to Continue to Slow the Spread

News, Press Release
stay at home

RALEIGH – Governor Roy Cooper and North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen today announced that North Carolina’s Modified Stay At Home Order, requiring people to be at home from 10 pm – 5 am, will be extended. Face covering requirements and restrictions on individuals gathering in both indoor and outdoor settings are still in place. Executive Order No. 189 will be in effect through at least Sunday, February 28, 2021 at 5:00 p.m.

The extension of Executive Order No. 190 allowing for the sale of “to-go” or delivery of mixed beverages will continue to help businesses that are struggling right now. The extension of Executive Order No. 191 will help families have the ability to stay in their homes, a critical component of slowing the spread of the virus.

The Executive Orders for “to-go” or delivery sales of mixed beverages and the evictions moratorium both received concurrence from the Council of State.

“With more than 3,300 people in the hospital, and the percent of positive tests in double digits, we know this virus is still spreading,” said Governor Cooper. “And with at least one new contagious variant of COVID-19 in our state, we still have work to do.  We cannot let our guard down, especially in these cold winter months.”

In addition to the Modified Stay at Home Order, the DHHS secretarial directive remains in effect. People should stay home and only leave for essential purposes such as buying food, accessing health care, and going to school or work.

“The 3 Ws are as essential as they have always been,” said NCDHHS Secretary Mandy K. Cohen, M.D. “Remember people can have COVID-19 and not know it. The best way to protect those around you is to act as if you do have the virus and could be contagious. That means always wearing a mask – over your mouth and nose, always waiting apart from others, and always washing your hands frequently.”

North Carolina continues to administer Covid-19 vaccines across the state. As of today, 99.8% of all first doses received by the state were reported as being administered and 859,695 total doses have been administered. Vaccine supply continues to be very low and the state is hopeful for more vaccine to be on the way. On a call with Governor Cooper and other governors yesterday, the Biden Administration committed to increase vaccine shipments to the states by 16% over the next 3 weeks.

On Tuesday, NCDHHS expanded its vaccine data dashboard to provide information about vaccine doses allocated to and received by the state and updated guidance to ensure equitable distribution and speed of administration.

North Carolinians can find out when they will be eligible to get their vaccine through a new online tool, Find My Vaccine Group. The screener walks users through a series of questions to determine which vaccine group they fall in. Learn more about North Carolina’s vaccine rollout at YourSpotYourShot.nc.gov.

On January 23, NCDHHS reported the first identified case of B.1.1.7 COVID-19 Variant in North Carolina. Early data suggest that this variant may be more contagious than other variants and state health officials continue to recommend staying at home when possible and practicing the 3 “W’s:” Wear a face covering, Wait 6 feet apart and Wash your hands.

Dr. Cohen provided an update on North Carolina’s data and trends.

Trajectory in COVID-Like Illness (CLI) Surveillance Over 14 Days

  • North Carolina’s syndromic surveillance trend for COVID-like illness is decreasing, but high.

Trajectory of Confirmed Cases Over 14 Days

  • North Carolina’s trajectory of cases is stabilizing, but high.

Trajectory in Percent of Tests Returning Positive Over 14 Days

  • North Carolina’s trajectory in percent of tests returning positive is leveling, but high.

Trajectory in Hospitalizations Over 14 Days

  • North Carolina’s trajectory of hospitalizations is leveling, but high.

In addition to these metrics, the state continues building capacity to adequately respond to an increase in virus spread in testing, tracing and prevention.

Testing

  • Testing capacity remains high.

Tracing Capability

  • There have been more than 666,000 downloads of the exposure notification app, SlowCOVIDNC.

Personal Protective Equipment

  • North Carolina’s personal protective equipment (PPE) supplies are stable.

Read Executive Order No. 189 and the FAQs.

Read Executive Order No. 190 and the FAQs.

Read Executive Order No. 191 and the FAQs.

North Carolina’s new stay at home order started last Friday

News
face stay at home in-person instruction

MURPHY, NC – On Tuesday, Governor Roy Cooper and NCDHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen announced a modified stay at home order that will go into effect Friday, December 11, and last until January 8, 2021. Cooper has the option to extend the order if necessary.

They cited the “rapid” increase in key COVID-19 trends in the state. From November 21 and December 4, 2020, “over three-fourths of North Carolina counties were experiencing substantial (orange)” or “critical (red)” COVID-19 community spread, according to the County Alert System.” The system was put into place to easily evaluate a county’s COVID-19 cases, percent positives, and hospital capacity.

As of December 9, Cherokee County was listed as critical with low impact to its hospital. Clay and Graham Counties experienced significant spread, but both are low on the County Alert System scale.

Executive Order 181 called for “urgent and immediate action is therefore necessary to protect the lives of North Carolinians and to avoid further strain on the state’s health care system capacity.”

Under the order restaurants, bars, entertainment venues, personal care businesses, and more must close at 10 p.m. The sale of alcohol is prohibited from 9 p.m. to 7 a.m.

Essential businesses that may remain open after 10 p.m., such as grocery stores, pharmacies, and gas stations. Restaurants can continue to serve take-out and deliver after 10 p.m., just can’t be open to the public.

Anyone who refuses to leave an establishment at 10 p.m. may be subject to criminal trespassing prosecution.

All individuals in North Carolina must stay at home between 10:00 p.m. and 5:00 a.m., unless an exception applies.  Events outside of the home must end by 10:00 p.m. and guests must leave the establishment and travel to the place they are staying that night. Gatherings are still limited to 10 indoor and 50 outdoor.

A face covering is required in all public indoor settings if there are non-household members present, regardless of social distancing. Additionally, in public outdoor settings, face coverings are required if social distancing can’t be maintained from non-household members.

During the nighttime stay at home order, people can leave their homes to travel to and from work, pick up essentials, take care of family, friends, or pets, attend religious services, and/or cross state lines. The order doesn’t prohibit visiting friends or family members, but it does stress that multiple households gathering together has led to the spread of COVID-19. Also, the face coverings rules apply when visiting other households.

View entire FAQ list.

Cooper Announces Nearly $40 million to Connect Students and Communities to High-Speed Internet

News, Press Release
COVID-19 relief funds internet

RALEIGH: Governor Roy Cooper announced nearly $40 million in funding for NC Student Connect, a new partnership created to address internet connectivity gaps that are a barrier to remote learning for many North Carolina students. When school resumed in August, superintendents estimated that at least 100,000 students still lacked a reliable internet connection at home.

Many North Carolina students are currently attending school remotely and need reliable internet access to be able to connect with their teachers and access their lessons. Students who are attending school onsite may also need internet access at home to be able to complete assignments.

“Long before COVID-19, expanding access to high-speed internet has been a top priority for my administration, and this pandemic has made the need even more urgent,” said Governor Cooper. “NC Student Connect will make critical investments in high speed internet access and remote learning that will help students, health care and businesses in our state.”

Today’s NC Student Connect investment includes:

  • $30 million to distribute 100,000 wireless high speed hot spots for students to connect with their remote learning classes.
  • $8 million to create accessible sites in convenient locations across the state such as school parking lots, municipal areas, and state parks, museums and historic sites. These NC Student Connect sites will provide free high-speed internet for students to connect to the Internet to download lessons and complete assignments offline.
  • $2 million for educator professional development, parent training and student involvement in a spectrum of activities that go into effective remote learning. More than 1,300 educators from rural North Carolina already participated in a virtual conference focused on remote learning to help them be better prepared to teach throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Learn more about that conference.

NC Student Connect is a partnership across state government including the Department of Information Technology (DIT), the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources (DNCR), Governor Cooper’s Hometown Strong initiative and the NC Business Committee for Education (NCBCE), an educational nonprofit in the Governor’s Office. These and other agencies have already worked to build partnerships to help leverage public investments to increase internet access in underserved communities. Purchasing began before Labor Day and thousands of hot spots will be shipped to school systems this week and will continue throughout the month.

“This announcement illustrates the state’s unwavering commitment in connecting all our students and all of NC,” said DIT Acting Secretary Thomas Parrish. “There’s no greater action than investing in our children, our future world changers. We are grateful to our private partners, and all those who are assisting in this effort; our tomorrow says thank you.”

“As a parent with a child that is remote learning at home, I can testify to the urgent need for devices with high speed connectivity,” said DNCR Secretary Susi Hamilton. “As a leader in State government, I can answer the Governor’s call to help school children by lending them devices through our State Library and add to their learning experience through outdoor and cultural programming that this department offers.”

“Today’s actions significantly advance Governor Cooper’s commitment to quality, accessible high-speed internet for every North Carolina school district. Our Remote Learning Working Group continues to produce meaningful solutions for our most marginalized students. The time is now for bold, innovative, and collaborative solutions that deliver high-speed internet to every North Carolina home,” said Jeremy Collins, Director of Innovative Connectivity with Hometown Strong.

“Google is proud to work with our state, local, and corporate partners to provide innovative connectivity solutions—such as our Rolling Hotspots program in North Carolina—to help students access Wi-Fi. NCBCE’s Remote Learning Working Group is thrilled that the state will invest in the NC Student Connect Program and provide professional development for educators as part of a collective effort to make it possible for more students to engage in school work remotely,” said Lilyn Hester, Head of External Affairs – Southeast, Google, who serves as vice chairwoman of NCBCE and Chairwoman of the NCBCE Remote Learning Working Group.

Initial private sector investments in remote learning and NC Student Connect include, AT&T, Duke Energy Foundation, Fidelity Investments, Google, Smithfield Foundation, Verizon Foundation, and Wells Fargo Foundation.

Phase One of reopening North Carolina begins on May 8

Business
phase one

RALEIGH, N.C. – Starting at 5 p.m. on Friday, May 8, residents of N.C. will have certain restrictions lifted as the state moves toward reopening.

In Phase One, the distinction between essential and non-essential businesses is removed and individuals can leave their homes for any commercial activity that is open. Small outdoor gatherings are allowed, but gatherings more than 10 are still prohibited. Religious services and First Amendment activities are also allowed but must follow social distancing protocols. However, the 10-person limit doesn’t apply to these gatherings, but they should gather outside unless impossible.

“COVID-19 is still a serious threat to our state, and Phase 1 is designed to be a limited easing of restrictions that can boost parts of our economy while keeping important safety rules in place,” said Governor Cooper. “This is a careful and deliberate first step, guided by the data, and North Carolinians still must use caution while this virus is circulating.”

Those who do decide to go out they are encouraged to wear a face mask, carry hand sanitizer, wash their hands whenever possible, and regularly clean high-touch surfaces.

“When leaving home and wear it inside all public settings such as grocery stores, pharmacies, or other retail or public-serving businesses. A Face Covering should also be worn outdoors when you cannot maintain at least six (6) feet distancing from other people with the exception of family or household members. These coverings function to protect other people more than the wearer,” states the Executive Order.

Retail stores can operate at 50 percent capacity. Additionally, customers must stand six feet apart and retailers should provide hand sanitizer, screen employees, and frequently clean.  NCDHHS is posting the screening questionnaire online.

Phase One summary from Gov. Cooper’s office.

Businesses that remain closed are bars, personal care businesses, entertainment venues, and gyms.

Restaurants may only continue to serve customers for drive-through, takeout and delivery.

All employees are encouraged to wear face masks or coverings and Cooper still recommends teleworking whenever possible.

Long-term care facilities are still closed to visitors.

Parks are encouraged to open if they can accommodate social distancing, but playgrounds should remain closed.

Childcare facilities will be open to serve families who need the assistance. The organizations are required to follow strict cleaning protocols. Summer day camps can operate in compliance with NC DHHS guidelines.

In explaining the decision to move to Phase One, Cooper and Secretary Cohen reported North Carolina remains stable on the following key metrics:

  • Trajectory in COVID-Like Illness (CLI) Surveillance Over 14 Days – North Carolina’s syndromic surveillance trend for COVID-like illness is decreasing.
  • Trajectory of Lab-Confirmed Cases Over 14 Days – North Carolina’s trajectory of lab-confirmed cases over the last 14 days cases is slightly increasing.
  • Trajectory in Percent of Tests Returning Positive Over 14 Days – North Carolina’s trajectory in percent of tests returning positive over the last 14 days is decreasing.
  • Trajectory in Hospitalizations Over 14 Days – North Carolina’s trajectory of hospitalizations over the last 14 days is level.

In addition to these metrics, the state continues building capacity to be able to adequately respond to an increase in virus spread. These areas include:

  • Laboratory Testing – North Carolina has doubled the daily testing rate.
  • Tracing Capability – The Carolina Community Tracing Collaborative has received over 4,000 applications and is in the process of hiring 250 new contact tracers.
  • Personal Protective Equipment – Supply chains continue to improve with the exception of gowns.

The order is in effect until 5 p,m, on Friday, May 22. However, the end of this Order does not necessarily mean the state will move to Phase Two. Phase Two only start if data and indicators are in the right place.

UPDATE: Cooper orders North Carolinians to stay home

News, State & National
Cooper census extension

RALEIGH, N.C. – On Friday, March 27, Gov. Roy Cooper signed Executive order 121 instructing North Carolinians to remain in their homes except for essential activities and essential work. The order takes effect on Monday, March 30 at 5 p.m. and ends on April 29, but can be extended or lifted early.

This is to slow the spread of COVID-19 and keep local hospitals from being overwhelmed with infected patients.

Essential businesses include grocery stores, restaurants – take out and drive-thru only, ABC stores, healthcare providers, pharmacies, hardware stores, post offices, office supply stores, gas stations, convenience stores, veterinarians, pet supply stores, hotels, airlines, public transit, places of worship, child care providers that follow NCDHHS guidelines.

Individuals should stay in their residence except for essential activities, such as grocery shopping, medication, medical appointments, exercise – not in groups larger than 10, essential jobs, etc. At this time, Cooper is seeking voluntary cooperation from the public but can instate law enforcement protocols if necessary.

Social interaction should be limited. People can visit family members to help take care of their medical needs.

People can still go to parks if they remain open.

Businesses that aren’t listed as essential, but owners believe it is to the community, can apply for an exemption with the North Carolina Department of Revenue.

Click here to read FAQs about the order.

Update from March 23 below:

Almost a week after Gov. Roy Cooper ordered restaurants to close all in-dining services, he has issued another order instructing all salons and gyms to close. The Monday, March 23rd conference also told the public that public K-12 schools will remain closed until May 15.

Schools will continue to offer remote instruction until the May date when the situation will be reevaluated.

A list of businesses closing on Wednesday, March 25 at 5 p.m. include gyms, salons, nail salons, barbershops, health clubs, movie theaters, and sweepstakes parlors. Casinos in the state closed last week.

Grocery stores remain open as do restaurants with curbside, takeout, delivery, or drive-thru options. Cooper urged North Carolinians to only buy what they need at the store and leave goods for others who might need it.

New updates and directives are as follows per Executive Order:

Mass Gatherings = 50+ Persons

The new Executive Order modifies Executive Order 117 to limit mass gatherings to no more than 50 people [was 100 people]. Section 1. a.1. of Executive Order 120 provides that a mass gathering is defined as any “event or convening that brings together more than fifty (50) persons in a single room or single space at the same time, such as an auditorium, stadium, arena, large conference room, meeting hall, or any other confined indoor or outdoor space . . . [and includes] parades, fairs and festivals.” Not included in the definition of mass gatherings are normal operations at airports, bus and train stations, medical facilities, shopping malls and shopping centers. It also does not include office environments, factories, grocery stores and child care facilities.

If a church gathering has a coordinated event or convening for more than 50, such gathering would be prohibited under Section 1(a). If a church has more than 50 employees and they come to work, that would fall within the exemption of Section 1(b) because it functions as an office environment.

If a wedding ceremony or reception has more than 50 attendees, that activity would be prohibited under Section 1(a).

A funeral home can continue to conduct retail business in assisting clients with funeral arrangements. However, a funeral that has more than 50 attendees would be prohibited under Section 1(a).

The Executive Order provides that the above restriction on mass gatherings is a Class 2 misdemeanor and shall be enforced by State and local law enforcement officers.

Entertainment Facilities
Section 1.b. of Executive Order 120 requires the closure of entertainment facilities without a retail or dining component. Entertainment facilities that must close include bowling alleys, health clubs, indoor/outdoor pools, skating rinks, indoor exercise facilities, movie theaters, spas, bingo parlors, and gaming establishments.

Gaming establishments that must close include any “gaming and business establishments which allow gaming activities (e.g. video poker, gaming, sweepstakes, video games, arcade games, pinball machines or other computer, electronic or mechanical devices played for amusement.)” A violation of this section is a Class 2 misdemeanor.

If any of these entertainment facilities have a retail or dining component, those may continue to operate within current emergency restrictions. For example, if a spa has a deli or sandwich shop, they can continue to provide take-out food service to customers. In addition, if a health club has a gift shop, they can continue to sell T-shirts and other items from that retail gift shop.

Personal Care and Grooming Businesses
Section 1.c. also requires the closure of personal care and grooming businesses. This includes barber shops, beauty salons, hair salons, nail salons, massage parlors, and tattoo parlors. A violation of this section is a Class 2 misdemeanor.

Long Term Care Visitation Limitations
Executive Order 120 places restrictions on patient visitation in long term care facilities. For a more detailed description of this provision, please view the Executive Order.

Continued School Closure
All public schools are closed through Friday, May 15, 2020.

Original article from March 12 below:

In a March 12, 2020 press conference, Gov. Roy Cooper asked North Carolinians to stay away from gatherings of 100 people or more as Coronavirus cases continue to grow throughout the state.

The voluntary measures apply to conferences, assemblies, sporting events, concerts, and worship services. Cooper also stated these protocols could become mandatory if no one followed through with his suggestions.

Employers are also encouraged to allow employees to work from home.

Cooper willing to put mandatory measures in place if the public doesn’t follow through.

The measures go into effect on Friday, March 13.

“Although North Carolina has not seen as much widespread infection as some other states, I want to provide stronger statewide guidance now,” explained Cooper. “Health experts believe that it will protect the health and safety of North Carolinians and help prevent further spread of the virus. I strongly urge all North Carolinians to follow it and take it seriously.”

Don’t close schools just yet

One call to action differing from much of the rest of the county, state government isn’t calling for preemptive school closings. Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen expanded upon the reasoning during the press conference.

She listed multiple reasons, including children tend to gather other places when not in school, one of which is grandparent’s homes – who are labeled as high risk for catching the virus. Also, many children depend on free or reduced breakfast and lunch as their only meals throughout the school year.

“Those are all significant things that contribute to children’s health, and we want to make sure we’re thinking about that,” Cohen stated.

However, childcare and schools are recommended to cancel or reduce large extracurricular activities or events.

Cohen explained why schools should stay open for now.

Several universities in the state have moved to online classes, but students can remain on campus for now.

Cooper declared a state of emergency in North Carolina last week. As of Thursday, the state had 16 confirmed cases of Coronavirus (COVID-19). The new cases were reported in Wake, Cabarrus, Mecklenburg, Forsyth and Johnston counties.

Images courtesy of N.C. government.

Governor Roy Cooper's COVID-19 Briefing 3-12-2020 4 pm

Gov. Cooper Coronavirus Task Force Update 3/12/20

Posted by Governor Roy Cooper on Thursday, March 12, 2020

 

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