North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper issued an executive order on Saturday closing K-12 public schools for at least two weeks and banning gatherings of 100 people or more.
Cooper made the announcements during a news conference on Saturday, March 14.
Cooper said the state issued guidance earlier in the week recommending against mass gatherings of 100 or more, but several venues continued with their events despite the guidance.
“This is a risk we cannot tolerate,” Cooper said. “No concert is worth the spread of this pandemic.”
Cooper said the order does not apply to restaurants, shopping centers, and similar venues. It does apply to concerts and other large gatherings of people in close quarters.
For school closings, Cooper said several school districts stopped holding on-campus classes on their own initiative, and many parents have been keeping their children home from school to avoid contracting the virus.
Craven County was not among them. Craven County officials said they were waiting for state guidance, instead.
“We need a statewide response, and statewide action,” Cooper said Saturday.
Cooper said he did not make the decision lightly, and said the closures will buy the state time while experts learn more about the virus.
Cooper said the state will seek ways to soften the burden of keeping children home from school that will be placed on families. Many students rely on schools for meals, while many parents work and will be faced with challenges caring for and supervising their children.
COVID-19 is a so-called novel, or new, coronavirus for which there is no cure and no specific treatment. Because it is a new virus, most people are not immune. It is highly contagious and is estimated to be 10 times more deadly than the flu.
The two weapons currently being deployed are early testing, which has been spotty at best, and preventing the spread of the disease to avoid overwhelming the available capacity of the medical system to handle the most severe cases.
North Carolina reports 23 cases of COVID-19 in 12 counties, including one each in Craven and Onslow counties. There are no cases of community spread of the disease in North Carolina.
Monday, March 16, will be a teacher workday to allow students to retrieve their materials from the schools. Schools will remain closed through March 30 at the earliest.
Meanwhile, educators will be working to figure out how to continue educating North Carolina’s K-12 students remotely for the next two weeks, or longer if the pandemic continues to increase.
Cooper said it is better to be careful now, rather than to have regrets if the state does not go far enough.