Governor Roy Cooper has issued an executive order requiring all K-12 public schools across North Carolina to close for at least two weeks, beginning Monday, to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
“I don’t want any regrets in our rearview mirror when this pandemic subsides,” Cooper said at a press conference Saturday.
The decision to close schools statewide came hours after Wake County officials announced an elementary teacher in Fuquay-Varina had tested positive for COVID-19, and soon after Wake and Johnston County Public Schools announced they would close to students.
Cooper said his executive order was not prompted by that news, but rather to prevent North Carolinians from getting sick and “to ensure that those who do have excellent care.”
“We need a statewide response and statewide action,” Cooper said.
At least 20 states across the U.S. have issued statewide school closings in an effort to curb the pandemic.
Mitigating Impacts On Schools and Families
State Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen called the move an “incredibly hard and complex decision,” acknowledging the impact it will have on families.
Cooper has appointed an education and nutrition working group to strategize solutions for meal delivery to families who rely on federally-subsidized school meals. He also indicated the working group could address childcare solutions for frontline healthcare workers.
State Superintendent Mark Johnson and State Board of Education Chairman Eric Davis said they are collaborating to support these efforts, and will work with legislators to pursue calendar and testing waivers for schools as needed. These measures are typically sought during natural disasters to give schools flexibility under state law.
Cooper confirmed that teachers will continue to be paid during the two week closing.
The executive order also puts a statewide ban on all gatherings of more than 100 people, elevating previous guidance to an official mandate. The ban does not apply to restaurants or shopping centers.