Governor Roy Cooper announced an executive order calling for K-12 schools in North Carolina to hold exclusively online instruction through May 15 and for additional businesses to cease operations amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Cooper spoke at a press conference on Monday afternoon with health and education officials to share details on his executive order. He said his administration arrived at the May 15 date for schools based on Centers of Disease Control guidelines, but indicated that the date could be changed based on how the ongoing spread of the novel coronavirus changes itself.

“I know that many parents have been expecting something like this and I know this is extremely difficult for you and your children,” said Cooper. “But this is what we need to do to help slow the spread of the virus. I’m committing to ensuring our students get an education and get as much education they can this year.”

Cooper said he is communicating with the state Board of Education, the Department of Public Instruction and state legislators to determine a plan to bring online learning to all North Carolina students and to ensure school employees will be paid during this period.

A different part of the governor’s executive order calls for more businesses around North Carolina to temporarily close in order to promote more social distancing. Cooper said he is lower the ban on mass gatherings to no more than 50 people together, which leads to his order of gyms, movie theaters, health clubs, sweepstakes parlors and other facilities to close. He also said hair salons, nail salons, barber shops and massage parlors are also ordered to close due to their inability to social distance while providing their services.

Cooper said the order on those businesses to close is by Wednesday, March 25, by 5 p.m.

“We encourage you to close even before that date, if you can,” he said.

The decision follows Cooper’s call for restaurants and bars to stop serving dine-in to customers on March 17. He had previously instructed schools to cancel in-person instruction for two weeks beginning March 14.

With schools continuing to not hold in-person instruction, many communities are helping aid school districts in feeding students who rely on federal lunches. Cooper’s office said on Monday all 115 public school districts have approved plans to serve meals and as of March 22, more than have already served 1.2 million meals and 6,500 snacks since schools closed.

Cooper thanked those who have helped with these efforts during his Monday press conference, stressing the importance of their actions to the state’s vulnerable students.

“You went above and beyond before this virus came,” he said, “you’re doing it now and you’ll continue to do it when we come out on the other side of this.”

Despite ordering new groups of businesses to close, Cooper assured North Carolinians grocery stores will continue to remain open and bars and restaurants will continue to serve takeout options.

Photo via Associated Press and Julia Wall/The News & Observer.


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