As expected, Governor Roy Cooper today extended through the academic year that ends in June his executive order that closed all K-12 public schools until May 15. Students will “continue remote learning for the rest of the school year,” he said.
In announcing his decision to keep public schools closed indefinitely for “in-person instruction,” the Governor, as well as two top state education officials who spoke at today’s press conference, made clear that they are preparing for a “new normal” model of education and learning in the fall.
“The next school year will not be business as usual,” the Governor said, a message echoed by N.C. School Superintendent Mark Johnson and N.C. Board of Education Chairman Eric Davis, each of whom spoke about being ready and proactive during a continued COVID-19 crisis.
The Governor also announced today his proposal for how $1.4 billion in federal aid to North Carolina should be spent. The federal monies are available through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Security (CARES) Act.
State Budget Director Charles Perusse outlined how the Governor’s proposed allocations address the “immediate needs” in three areas: 1) public health and safety; 2) continuity of operations for education and state government services; and 3) assistance to small businesses and local governments.
According to Mr. Perusse, the Governor has proposed $300 million be allocated to public health and safety; $740 million to education and state government; and $175 million to small businesses and municipal governments in need.
Breaking down these figures further, Mr. Perusse said that the Governor has recommended $243 million be allocated to K-12 public education; $77.4 million to higher education; $300 million to on-going major transportation operations; $75 million to small businesses through the Golden LEAF Foundation; and $300 million to local governments, who would benefit based on their populations.
Mr. Perusse said that leadership in both the N.C. House of Representatives and the N.C. Senate is supportive of the Governor’s proposal. The N.C. General Assembly will be back in session on Tuesday.
According to Superintendent Johnson, “Plans for next [school] year are already under way” and take into account the safety of students, educators, and all school workers.
Some of the ideas suggested by the Governor and the school officials for instruction in the fall include 6-foot physical distancing among students and teachers, increased spacing between classrooms, the elimination of common areas, the staggering of instruction days, and revised hygiene protocols.
The Governor also mentioned the possibility of eliminating sports programs.
As he did in his earlier press conferences this week, Governor Cooper spoke about making decisions based on “science, data, and trends” and warned: “This pandemic will be with us for some time.”
WHAT ABOUT GEORGIA?
During the media question period, Governor was asked about his concerns related to the loosening of COVID-19 restrictions by the nearby states of South Carolina and Georgia. He expressed concerns about both states, but focused on Georgia.
Georgia Governor Brian Kemp, who was slow to issue a stay-at-home order, has permitted hair and nail salons, gyms, tattoo parlors, massage therapists, and other close-contact businesses to reopen today even though COVID-19 cases and deaths in that state are still on the rise.
Despite the close proximity of people in such businesses, the Governor also has urged people to continue to observe social distancing, as well as to wear face masks and gloves and to practice rigorous hygiene protocols
On Monday, Georgia’s theaters, social clubs, and dine-in restaurants will be able to open, as well, on a limited basis.
Governor Cooper said he is very concerned about Georgia’s actions “potentially hurting North Carolinians,” either by North Carolinians traveling to Georgia and being infected by the coronavirus or by Georgians traveling to North Carolina and bringing the coronavirus with them. He said he would be speaking with Governor Kemp today and would be asking him to “take a second look at” his rollback of restrictions.
A portion of Western North Carolina shares a state border with Georgia.
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms has publicly disagreed with Governor Kemp’s decision, favoring taking less drastic steps to make the stay-at-home order more palatable to citizens.
Governor Kemp received unwelcome notoriety earlier when he belatedly issued the state’s stay-at-home order only after he admitted to learning that asymptomatic people could transmit COVID-19—months after this mode of transmissibility had become well-known.
TODAY’S DARE COUNTY EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT BULLETIN
In today’s emergency bulletin, Dare County announces that starting next week the Joint Information Center, which the Dare County Control Group set up to coordinate important COVID-19 communications, will provide video updates twice weekly on Tuesday and Thursday, and issue COVID-19 bulletins three times a week on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, unless information warrants additional updates.
Dare County and N.C. COVID-19 cases will continue to be updated daily and will be available at darenc.com/covid19.
See Bulletin no. 51 at https://www.darenc.com/Home/Components/News/News/6190/1483.
Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 4/24/20