North Carolina’s COVID-19 restrictions keeping some businesses with higher risks for spreading the virus closed and mass gatherings severely limited will remain in place for another five weeks, Gov. Roy Cooper announced last week.
Cooper’s current executive order, which also mandates face coverings in public places statewide, expires on Friday. Now the restrictions will be extended until at least Sept. 11. A decision to maintain the status quo comes even as the governor and his top health official said case trends continue to stabilize, and even improve slightly in some areas, compared to a few weeks ago.
The new order means bars, gyms, movie theaters and amusement parks – places where people are usually in closer contact – will now be closed for nearly six straight months. Gatherings are still limited to 10 people indoors and 25 people outdoors, with some exceptions.
As many university campuses and K-12 public schools begin fall classes this month with some in-person instruction, Cooper said it’s important to keep the same social distancing restrictions in place. Retaining the other restrictions will help counterbalance the higher risk associated with bringing together students, the governor said.
“There are key openings already occurring this month,” Cooper said at a media briefing, and with “the hustle and bustle of opening schools, people will move around more, and so will the virus.”
North Carolina’s day-over-day increase in new coronavirus cases was slowing as of last week.
Cooper last month told public schools that they could either hold in-person classes with social distancing restrictions and indoor face-mask mandates or conduct all remote learning when the year began Aug 17. Districts or charter schools that teach close to two-thirds of the state’s 1.5 mllion public school students have decided to conduct learning online to start the year, according to recent Department of Public Instruction data.
UNC-Chapel Hill, the university system’s flagship campus, began welcoming students this week in advance of the first day classes this Monday. The school will have a mix of in-person and online classes. The health director in Orange County, which includes Chapel Hill, wrote school Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz last week asking him to consider online instruction only for at least the first five weeks of the semester.
Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen said her agency has been working for months with higher education leaders to implement best practices for responding to COVID-19 on campus so that positive cases won’t spiral out of control.
“These are not activities with no risk. There is risk. The virus is with us, it’s in our communities,” Cohen said.
While most people who contract the coronavirus recover after suffering only mild to moderate symptoms, it can be deadly for older patients and those with other health problems.
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