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Governor announces two-week school closure, mandatory restrictions on large gatherings

North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper has issued an executive order closing North Carolina’s K-12 public schools for two weeks, along with mandatory restrictions on gatherings of 100 people or more for the next 30 days. The order comes amidst rising concerns regarding COVID-19. The governor made the announcement during a press conference Saturday afternoon, flanked by state education and health officials.

“Closing schools now will give us time for further understanding of COVID-19 and its effects on the people of our state,” Cooper said. “I do not make this decision lightly. We know that it will be difficult on many parents and students. These measures will hurt people whose incomes are affected by the prohibition of mass gatherings, particularly the people who are paid by the hour. These measures will also be tough on working parents and children who get their meals at schools. We are working on efforts to deal with these challenges.”

Among these efforts are changes to unemployment insurance and an influx of state and federal funding to address the issues. Cooper said he has appointed an Education and Nutrition Working group to that will include members from the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services, the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, the State Board of Education and schools. This group will be tasked with finding solutions for childcare and meal services for students while they’re out of school.

Eric Davis, Chairman of the State Board of Education, said the state board will make every effort to identify the impacts of school closing and find ways to facilitate continued instruction of students, as well as meal services for students.

As for the mandatory cancellation of events with 100 people or more, the executive order makes it a class 2 misdemeanor to continue holding such events. The restrictions remain in place for 30 days.

The ban on gatherings does not include airports, bus and train stations, medical facilities, libraries, shopping malls and spaces where people may be in transit. Office environments, restaurants, factories, or retail or grocery stores are also excluded.

The order further encourages North Carolina residents to practice social distancing measures, maintaining a distance of six feet from other people, washing hands frequently and practicing respiratory etiquette.

“Our lives have been turned upside down by this pandemic, but we’re going to get through this,” Cooper said. “I’m grateful to the people of our state who are doing the right thing and taking steps to protect themselves and their families. Hindsight is 20/20 and I don’t want any regrets in the rearview mirror when this pandemic subsides.”

For the latest information on COVID-19 in Beaufort County, visit co.beaufort.nc.us/departments/human-services/public-health/2019-coronavirus-covid-19. For the latest information statewide, including information on where cases have been confirmed, visit ncdhhs.gov/coronavirus. National information is available at cdc.gov/coronavirus.