Jul 14, 2020
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper Press Conference Transcript July 14
North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper held a press conference on coronavirus on July 14. Cooper said some businesses must remain closed so schools can begin to reopen. Read the full transcript here.
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Governor Roy Cooper: (00:01)
Good afternoon, everybody, and thank you for joining today’s update on COVID-19 in North Carolina. As of today, we have 89,484 lab-confirmed cases, 1,956 new cases reported today, 1,109 people in the hospital, and sadly, 1,552 people who’ve died. The loss of a loved one from COVID-19 can be a difficult and lonely journey, and our prayers are with all of you.
Governor Roy Cooper: (00:34)
As the summer rolls on, I know many children and parents are talking every day about what will happen this school year. In the spring when this pandemic first broke out, we made the difficult but necessary decision to close in-person learning at K-12 schools and moved to remote learning. March feels like a long time ago given everything we’d been through, and that was just the beginning of a series of tough decisions to slow the spread of COVID-19 that have helped our state cope and prevented our hospitals from being overwhelmed.
Governor Roy Cooper: (01:11)
The reality is that the disease continues to spread throughout the country, and some states are seeing their hospitals fill up. But the good news is we now know more about how to slow the spread and how to protect ourselves. After working with health experts, school superintendents, teachers, and more, we plan to put those protections in place and open our schools in a careful way.
Governor Roy Cooper: (01:39)
Today, we announce that North Carolina schools will be open for both in-person and remote learning with key safety precautions to protect the health of our students, teachers, staff, and families. This is the Plan B that we asked schools to prepare. It’s a measured, balanced approach that will allow children to attend, but provide important safety protocols like fewer children in the classroom, social distancing, face coverings, cleaning, and more. As a part of this plan, we want local school districts to provide for remote learning options for any child who chooses it. In addition, school districts will have the option of Plan C, all remote learning, if that’s best for them.
Governor Roy Cooper: (02:34)
Now, I know parents and students and teachers have questions about what school might look like if they attend in person. I want to share more information about some of the requirements for schools under this plan. Face coverings will be required for every teacher, staff, and student from kindergarten through high school. The studies have shown overwhelmingly that face coverings reduce disease transmission. To help, the state will be providing at least five reusable face coverings for every student, teacher, and staff member, and we’ve already delivered a two-month supply of thermometers and medical grade equipment for school nurses.
Governor Roy Cooper: (03:20)
Schools will be required to limit the total number of people in the building so that six feet of distancing as possible, for example, when students are seated or in a line. Districts and schools can use a plan that works for them, whether it’s alternating days or weeks or some other strategy.
Governor Roy Cooper: (03:41)
Symptom screenings including temperature checks will take place daily before children enter the school buildings. Schools must create a way to isolate students who have symptoms to ensure that they can get home safely.
Governor Roy Cooper: (03:57)
Schedules must allow time for frequent hand washing, and schools will regularly clean classrooms, bathrooms, buses, and equipment. Teachers will work to limit sharing of personal items and classroom materials. Non-essential visitors and activities involving outside organizations will be limited.
Governor Roy Cooper: (04:21)
In addition to these and other requirements, schools are strongly recommended to implement other safety precautions, such as one-way hallways and entrances, keeping students in small groups that stay together as much as possible, eating lunch in the classroom if the cafeteria won’t allow for social distancing, and suspending activities that bring large groups together like assemblies.
Governor Roy Cooper: (04:46)
We know schools will look a lot different this year. They have to in order to be safe and effective. The public health experts and the school leaders developed these safety rules to protect our students and teachers and their families. They’ve also developed detailed procedures for what will happen if a student or a teacher tests positive. Plan B is the baseline for our state. However, as I said earlier, districts can choose Plan C, which requires all remote learning, if they determine that that’s best for those children, parents, and teachers in that area.
Governor Roy Cooper: (05:29)
But let me be clear. The start of school is a month away for most of our children and we know a lot can happen with the virus during that time. If trends spike and in-person schools can not be done safely even with these safety protocols, then North Carolina will need to move to all remote learning like we did last March. There are no decisions more important than the ones about our children and our schools.
Governor Roy Cooper: (05:59)
This announcement today is the result of careful, collaborative, and painstaking work. As with many choices during this pandemic, we’re working with the best information and science that we have today. We know there will always be some risk with in-person learning, and we’re doing a lot to reduce that risk. But as pediatricians and other health experts tell us, there is much risk in not going back to in-person school. We know that schools provide so much more than just academic lessons. They support our children’s social, emotional, and physical development, they’re reliable sources of good meals, and they are a critical line of defense when a student has a troubled home life, including abuse, mental health, hunger, and homelessness. My mom was a teacher as I’ve said many times. I’ve spent time with teachers in every corner of our state. It didn’t take a pandemic for me to understand that teachers are some of our most essential employees, pulling from their own pockets to buy supplies, getting in early just to stay late, and even working extra jobs to stay in the profession that they love.
Governor Roy Cooper: (07:19)
In March, our teachers and school staff dove head first into the challenge of remote learning and meal distribution. They rose to the occasion and now we’re asking them to rise even higher and dig even deeper, so we must move ahead with the resources needed to protect them. Ensuring this plan protects not just students, but teachers and staff too, is the top priority. I strongly encourage all superintendents and principals to meet with and listen to teachers and staff as they shape their plans. I know this will be challenging work for them, but I have faith in North Carolina’s teachers.
Governor Roy Cooper: (08:06)
Today, I also announce that when the current executive order expires this Friday, July the 17th, North Carolina will continue to stay paused in safer at home phase two for three weeks. Now, our virus trends are not spiking like some other States. We have hospital capacity and our percent positive is still high, but it’s steady. However, our numbers are still troubling and they could jump higher in the blink of an eye. Easing restrictions now to allow more high transmission activities could cause a spike that would threaten our ability to open schools. The most important opening is that of our classroom doors. And we want to be done with this pandemic, but it’s not done with us. We’ll continue toward the school year working together with everyone safety in mind.
Governor Roy Cooper: (09:09)
Lastly, let me tell you about the easiest and most effective way we can ensure our children go to school in August and ease economic restrictions as well. Wear a mask. CDC Director Robert Redfield said that if everyone could wear a face covering over the next six weeks, we could drive this virus into the ground. Let’s do that for our children, if nothing else.
Governor Roy Cooper: (09:40)
I’d now like to ask Dr. Mandy Cohen, our secretary of our Department of Health and Human Services, to say a few words about this plan and what went into it. Mandy.
Dr. Mandy Cohen: (09:58)
Well, thank you, Governor. Before I dive into some of the science and data related to children in schools, I wanted to provide a quick update on our key metrics. I’ll do a deeper dive with all the graphs later this week, but in summary, our trends look about similar to last week. Our surveillance data, which is our early warning metric that looks at people who come into the emergency department with COVID-like symptoms, it’s still increasing. Our case numbers, as the governor said, continue to trend upward. The percent of tests that are positive remains level, but higher than I’d like. North Carolina’s trajectory of hospitalization has continued to tick upward, but we still have capacity. Related to our response capabilities, they’re largely stable, though we continue to see longer wait times for test results as our national commercial labs are swamped and our hospital labs are having supply challenges. These are not issues that are unique to North Carolina and are happening around the country. States need federal assistance as we can’t solve these issues alone within North Carolina. So in short, we continue to simmer, but we’ve avoided boiling over as many States are doing now. We will continue to watch our trends closely. If we see indications that we’re changing quickly or there’s new scientific data that emerges, we will not hesitate to act.
Dr. Mandy Cohen: (11:29)
Planning for the upcoming school year in the context of this pandemic has been full of difficult decisions, and we recognize that there are no perfect answers. In developing the plan laid out by the governor, our department looked to the science and medical evidence to guide us at every step of the way. The scientific evidence available today shows that children are less likely to be infected with COVID-19 and children get less severe illness than adults. Importantly, children who have COVID-19 are also less likely to spread it to others, even in school or a group setting. This is particularly evident in younger, elementary-age children. We also looked at data from around the world indicating that schools are a lower transmission setting and have not seemed to play a major role in spread of COVID-19. We weighed these factors against the conclusive evidence that school is critical to a child’s education, health-
Dr. Mandy Cohen: (13:02)
… Is critical to a child’s education, health, emotional, and social wellbeing. And that missing school is actually harmful to children. With any hard decision like this it’s necessary to weigh the risks and the benefits. And there are no easy answers. So after looking at all of those risks and benefit, we’ve decided to move forward with today’s balanced and flexible approach, Plan B, which allows for in-person instruction. As long as key safety requirements are in place. In addition to remote learning options. In arriving at this approach, it was critical that students and families have the option to choose remote instruction based on their own unique health and risk considerations.
Dr. Mandy Cohen: (13:47)
While the emerging evidence shows the school is a lower risk setting, we need to reduce risks for students, teachers, and staff, even further. That’s why our guidance, as the governor said, requires all students and teachers to wear cloth face coverings and maintain a distance of six feet. We also added guidance for the precaution of the adults in the building that they need to take when interacting with one another. With these measures and the additional robust public health requirements and our guidance we can mitigate, but not eliminate the health risks of reopening, while these policies need to be in place to reopen. We also know the new measures we’re requiring of schools will not be easy to comply with. That’s why over this summer, our department has worked hand in hand with our state education counterparts and with school districts. We’ve listened closely to the needs and concerns of North Carolina students, parents, and teachers.
Dr. Mandy Cohen: (14:47)
As the governor shared, we will provide five cloth face coverings for every student, teacher and member of the school staff, one for every day of the week. School nurses have already received shipments of personal protective equipment and guidance on how to manage suspected cases of COVID. In addition, school staff have received flowcharts on how to screen students and take appropriate next steps. And custodians and bus drivers are now equipped with new checklists on cleaning, disinfecting and sanitizing.
Dr. Mandy Cohen: (15:18)
Today’s new policies create a baseline of health and safety during COVID-19 that every public school in North Carolina will have to follow, but in the spirit of flexibility, school districts will be able to exercise even more caution and choose Option C remote learning only, but no school districts may fall below this baseline of Plan B. We’ve never faced a pandemic like this one before. I know that for all of us, this has been a very stressful reality. I can’t tell you with certainty what the future holds, but I do know that Governor Cooper and our department will be in constant communication with school communities, offering resources and support as we all find our way through this together.
Dr. Mandy Cohen: (16:08)
In the meantime, there are three simple steps everyone in North Carolina can take to limit the spread of the virus and keep our school doors open. Practice, those three Ws. Wearing a face covering over your nose and mouth, waiting six feet apart and washing your hands often wear, wait and wash. Thank you, governor.
Governor Roy Cooper: (16:32)
Thank you, Dr. Cohen, your laser focus on the science and the facts are deeply appreciated. I’d now like to invite the chairman of our State Board of Education, Eric Davis, to offer some remarks.
Eric Davis: (16:53)
On behalf of my colleagues on the State Board of Education, teachers and educators across our state. And most importantly, the nearly 1.6 million public school students that we serve each day. I want to express our appreciation to the governor and to Secretary Cohen for your outstanding leadership during this pandemic. Also, wish to thank the education leaders in the General Assembly, who have partnered with us in support of our students and teachers.
Eric Davis: (17:22)
Since March 14th, when our school buildings were closed for in-person instruction, educators and stakeholders across our state have worked tirelessly night and day in pursuit of one objective, to reopen our school buildings safely for our students, teachers, and staff. Today, we take another critical step towards that goal. My colleagues and I on the board have a range of perspectives about which reopening plan is best. Not unlike the citizens that we serve with some favoring Plan C others A and still others B. But we all agree that the best place for our students to learn and our teachers to teach is in our safe North Carolina public schools. And a key step to get there is for all of us, since we all have a vested interest in our children’s education to do all that we can to slow the spread of this virus in order to make our communities safer. And therefore our schools safer for all of our students, teachers and staff.
Eric Davis: (18:37)
I worry every day about our students’ safety and equally so, I worry about our teachers and staff, particularly those who are vulnerable or who are caring for members of their family, who are vulnerable. Regardless of how we feel about this virus or how tired we may be about how it has disrupted our lives. Our students, teachers and staff members need us to lead by wearing our mask, washing our hands and staying six feet apart so that they can return to school. Reducing spread is our critical next step, which includes to assure as a state that all of our students and educators and school personnel are provided with the necessary personal protective equipment and supplies to maximize safety in our schools.
Eric Davis: (19:39)
As plans for returning to school are implemented around the state. It’s absolutely critical that our educators be fully involved in this process as it’s executed. No one knows the intricacies and details of caring for and managing our students in our schools like our teachers and their input and leadership in the process is essential to moving forward and creating a safe school environment. Our educators, and all other school personnel have worked with sacrifice and courage throughout this pandemic. And we’re grateful to you and thank them for their continued leadership.
Eric Davis: (20:20)
Over the past few months, the General Assembly, governor and state board have sent over $390 million in COVID-19 relief funds to our schools to prepare for reopening. Funds that will be used for personal protective equipment, cleaning supplies and other badly needed resources to keep our schools safe. We’re grateful for this support. However, our school’s needs far exceed this funding, while we will continue to work with the General Assembly for additional state funding, the federal government with its vast resources must also step up and close the gap between decreasing state revenues and the increased supports needed to keep our students and teachers safe throughout the year.
Eric Davis: (21:09)
Finally, I want to thank our superintendents and all education leaders for developing thoughtful, thorough reopening plans, despite their often being more questions than answers. Their creativity, innovation, and determination to do what is in our students’ best interest while caring for our teachers and staff is evident in these plans. For example, Durham, Winston-Salem/Forsyth and Robinson County schools all make it a priority to bring elementary students into our buildings while relying more on remote instruction for high school students. Similarly, districts across our state, every district is providing a remote option for parents who see that as the best approach for their children.
Eric Davis: (22:03)
While we do not know what events await us in the coming year or beyond. We do know that we are made of the same metal as previous generations who overcame war, economic depression, and plagues. We North Carolinians do our finest work in the most uncertain and challenging times. And by rising to this challenge, we will reveal our true character and teach our children that they too can overcome. Like those seven majestic lighthouses that grace our state shores, let’s light the way forward for our children so that they can return to school and become the future of North Carolina. Thank you.
Governor Roy Cooper: (22:52)
Thank you, Chairman Davis. I want to thank you and the school board for your work. And now we have a one more guest Dr. Teresa Flynn, a practicing pediatrician who serves on the board of directors for the North Carolina Pediatric Society, Dr. Flynn.
Teresa Flynn: (23:20)
Thank you, governor. [Foreign language 00:23:22], Raleigh. [Foreign language 00:23:29]. My name is Teresa Flynn. I am a practicing pediatrician here in Wake County, member of the American Academy of Pediatrics. And I serve on the board of the state chapter of the AAP. The North Carolina Pediatric Society. Recently, the American Academy of Pediatrics released guidance on reopening schools. The AAP states, a clear goal of having students physically present in school. The AAP stresses that this should happen with careful measures to keep students and staff safe and with flexibility to adapt as needed to the community’s prevalence of COVID-19.
Teresa Flynn: (24:53)
The leadership of the North Carolina Pediatric Society agrees. We must use the evidence and research we have to make the best decision for our children and our communities when it comes to reopening schools. We’ve had some good news so far in the data around children and COVID. What we have seen so far is that children are less likely to get COVID-19, less likely to spread COVID-19 and less likely to have severe illness. That is good news. We also know that most students learn best in person and that schools offer many social and health benefits.
Teresa Flynn: (25:38)
Kids who are in school are more likely to reach learning goals and to complete their education. They also learn social and emotional skills, get healthy meals and exercise and may receive mental health support and other services. Beyond supporting educational development schools play a critical role in addressing racial and social inequity.
Teresa Flynn: (26:03)
… critical role in addressing racial and social inequity. The goal of in-person education is the right one. The decision of when and how to reopen must be made with the best information in hand and the best interests of children and communities in mind.
Teresa Flynn: (26:22)
While the AAP guideline recommends in-person education be available, it also recognizes that COVID- 19 remains a very real, active threat to health, and that decisions need to consider many factors, including the level of circulating virus. We applaud that school and health leaders have been working together to balance the health benefits of in-person education with the risks of COVID in our communities and have developed a plan that has health and safety requirements and recommendations to reduce those risks.
Governor Roy Cooper: (27:11)
Thank you very much, Dr. Flynn. We appreciate all of our pediatricians and other healthcare workers who continue to keep our families healthy in the face of this global pandemic. Also with us today is our Secretary of Public Safety, Erik Hooks, and our director of Emergency Management, Mike Sprayberry. Karen Magoon and Brian Tipton are our sign language interpreters. Behind the scenes, Jackie and Jasmine Metivier are our Spanish language interpreters. We’ll now take questions from our reporters. If you can give your name and your organization, we’ll take the first question.
Speaker 1: (27:50)
Our first question is from Lynn Bonner with the News & Observer.
Lynn Bonner: (27:55)
Thank you for taking my question. Governor, will your decision allow schools to open with only online instruction? If so, doesn’t that run contrary to the recently passed state law that says the first week of instruction must be in-person?
Governor Roy Cooper: (28:10)
First, we encourage our schools to open under Plan B, which is a balance between in-person instructions with safety protocol and remote learning. We have provided an option for school districts to choose Plan C, which is all remote learning. We’re pushing all school districts to have the option of allowing parents to choose Plan C, remote learning, for their student, particularly if their student is high risk.
Governor Roy Cooper: (28:43)
We have a letter from the Department of Justice from the Attorney General’s Office, stating that what we have done here is in compliance with the law overall, that the General Assembly has recognized that there can be emergency situations where students would need to be out of school and in remote learning. So, this plan is in compliance with the law. Next question, please.
Speaker 1: (29:16)
Our next question is from Paige Pauroso with WBTV.
Paige Pauroso: (29:22)
Hi there, this is a Page Pauroso from WBTV. Thanks for taking questions. What is the recommendation from the state for contingency plans when it comes into school if they choose in-person learning and a teacher or a student show symptoms or tests positive in a classroom? Will buildings need to be closed, will classrooms need to be closed? What’s the plan or the guidance that you guys are going to give to school districts for that situation?
Governor Roy Cooper: (29:51)
We certainly hope that when we go into in-person learning for students and teachers in the school building that we can slow the spread and prevent as much spread as possible, but there is certainly the anticipation that at some point a student or a teacher could test positive for COVID and there are health guidelines with specific protocols that determine what schools are supposed to do. I’ll let Dr. Cohen address that.
Dr. Mandy Cohen: (30:27)
Thank you, Governor. Yes, that is exactly right, is that we have sent very detailed protocols to our schools to help them with a range of scenarios. As you heard from the Governor earlier, one of the requirements going back to in-person learning is about screening every single day students who return to the school building. So, things maybe get picked up on that screening, we may hear of a teacher or a student who is positive, you may hear an exposure.
Dr. Mandy Cohen: (30:57)
So, there’s a lot of different scenarios and we have very detailed protocols based on whatever scenario that might be. I will say that the most important is for schools to get in touch with their local health department and work together because the different plans and protocols are going to need to be tailored to the particular situation that they’re in, but there are lots of detailed protocols. Of course, we’re going to make sure that we’re watching the science and the data and evolving if there are any changes that will be needed to those protocols.
Governor Roy Cooper: (31:33)
Thank you. Next question, please.
Speaker 1: (31:37)
Our next question is from Brian Anderson with the Associated Press.
Brian Anderson: (31:43)
Hi, Governor, Brian Anderson here with the Associated Press. Thank you so much for the accessibility and taking the time to speak with us reporters here. I had two questions for you. One is with regard to the threat from the Trump Administration to withhold federal funds. I know that might be around 10% of the funds you might expect, but still a sizeable pot.
Brian Anderson: (32:03)
Do you have any idea what financial resources might be limited from the federal government because of your decision not to go with Plan A? Also with less than 28 days to go before UNC and NC State reopen, are you going to apply these same standards to colleges as well for a Plan B? Thank you.
Governor Roy Cooper: (32:27)
Number one, we don’t respond to those kinds of threats. We’re making decisions on the health and safety of our students, our teachers, and our families, and the best way to get them a quality education.
Governor Roy Cooper: (32:40)
Secondly, our health officials are talking with higher education leaders, and those decisions are going to be made by those higher education leaders soon after consultation with our health officials. There is a different situation with higher education because there are people living on the campus. I don’t know, Dr. Cohen, if you would want to say a word about that, you can.
Dr. Mandy Cohen: (33:09)
Sure. Just briefly to say that our department has been working collaboratively with the institutes of higher education on B, making sure that they are preparing. Yes, as the Governor mentioned, there are both in-person education protocols that we need to work through, as well as congregate living dormitory type setting. So, we’re still working through that guidance together and getting feedback from our higher ed stakeholders. We’ll be putting out some additional guidance soon. Thank you.
Governor Roy Cooper: (33:39)
Thank you. Next question, please.
Speaker 1: (33:43)
Our next question is from Drew Wilson with The Wilson Times.
Drew Wilson: (33:49)
Yes. Thank you, Governor. The average daily membership numbers for many school districts are likely to be down due to the families pulling their students out of school, changing schools, or homeschooling. ADMs are critical for districts to obtain funding. Has the administration considered freezing the ADM statistics for the 2020-21 school year so that the districts don’t lose funds and have to cut programs and lay off teachers?
Governor Roy Cooper: (34:14)
Well, first, we know that opening our schools under a Plan B is going to cost our schools more and not less. In addition, the state needs to do a lot better with salaries for our teachers and our school support personnel. I want to work with the General Assembly, whether it’s through average daily membership, whether it’s through additional salary increases, whether it’s additional money to help the schools deal with all these protocols that we’re asking them to do. We’re going to have to invest more.
Governor Roy Cooper: (34:55)
We know the General Assembly is coming back in less than two months, the 1st of September. We hope to have a federal congressional package by then that would have some additional support for education. The ADM can be one of a number of issues that we’re looking at in order to be able to provide our public schools with the resources that they need. Thanks, next question.
Speaker 1: (35:23)
Our next question is from Ann Doss Helms with WFAE.
Ann Doss Helms: (35:28)
Good afternoon, thanks for talking with us. What do we know about the availability of teachers and other employees? How many of them have voiced willingness to come back in person? Because, we’re certainly seeing and hearing a lot of fear and concern from people who don’t think it’s safe to go back yet.
Governor Roy Cooper: (35:46)
We know that there are some teachers who fall in the high risk category. We are encouraging local school districts to work with those teachers. We don’t want to put teachers in a high risk category at risk. I think that there’s definitely going to be remote learning going on in a Plan B, whether it’s one the school district would choose whether it’s a part of the Plan B, whether it’s one that parents would choose.
Governor Roy Cooper: (36:19)
So, we know that we’re going to have to have teachers who are engaged in remote learning. So, we want to respond to those concerns of teachers. We also have a lot of teachers who are eager and ready to go, even in these difficult circumstances to get back into the classroom with their children and to educate them, particularly our teachers who are dealing with children with disabilities, who have certainly missed out on in-person instruction.
Governor Roy Cooper: (36:51)
These teachers have a lot on them when they’re going back. They have a lot on them anyway. Last night, I took some time to go through what I thought, from everything that I’ve learned about all this, what would be a school day for a teacher going back to school under these of circumstances surrounded by the pandemic. It’s tough, a lot of additional things that teachers are going to have to deal with, but I have faith in North Carolina’s teachers. We want them to know that we were going to back them up, and we certainly don’t want to put anybody in danger. Dr. Cohen, if you would want to? I think she’s good with that. Thanks, next question, please.
Speaker 1: (37:33)
Follow-up, Ann Doss Helms, WFAE.
Ann Doss Helms: (37:37)
Yeah, just wanted to say, do you have any numbers about the number or percentage of teachers who have indicated that they will not come back in person and/or for employees who might not have remote options, like bus drivers or cafeteria staff? It just seems possible and even likely that there will be shortages when schools open.
Governor Roy Cooper: (37:55)
That is certainly a concern. I don’t know if Chairman Davis or Dr. Cohen would have any numbers. Chairman Davis, would you want to comment on that?
Eric Davis: (38:12)
Thank you, Governor. Each school district is conducting surveys and interviews and conversations with their staff, particularly following today’s announcement to determine the individual needs of members of their staff, and to respond to those needs, and to ensure that our schools are appropriately staffed.
Eric Davis: (38:33)
We certainly anticipate that some teachers and staff members will not be able to return to school for a variety of reasons where while others, as the Governor mentioned, are energetically awaiting the day that they can get back with their students and move forward. So, we’re confident in the work that our districts have underway to care for the needs of our staff and teachers. We will continue to send them the support and the assistance that they need.
Speaker 2: (39:03)
… to send them the support and the assistance that they need, including revise policies or other things needed to meet the needs of our teachers. Thank you.
Governor Roy Cooper: (39:12)
And I’ll reiterate that we’re encouraging strongly local superintendents and principals to meet with teachers and school support staff to get their input, to hear their concerns. We put this basic plan B and plan C forward, but there’s a lot of individual tailoring that needs to be done for these individual school districts. And having that input from teachers and staff is just going to be critical in the success. Next question, please.
Speaker 3: (39:47)
Our next question is from Travis Vane with WRAL.
Again, I’m Travis with WRAL. I’m interested, can you walk me through the decision not to bifurcate or even trifurcate this between high school, middle, and elementary school, given that older students are more likely to be able to transmit this virus then the younger students. Why one policy for all three types of schools?
Governor Roy Cooper: (40:18)
We’ve left some of this decision making to local school districts, and many of them have already started the process, just like you mentioned, knowing that older students are more likely to contract the virus and are more likely to spread it. Some of the districts have concentrated most of their in-person planning for the elementary students and most of the remote learning for their high school students. So there is a recognition of that, both in the plans that we proposed and plans that are being adopted by local school districts. Okay. Next question, please.
Speaker 3: (41:05)
Follow up, Travis Vane, WRAL.
Thank you. I know, Secretary Cohen, you said that there is some LinkedIn protocols, but I wonder if you could walk us through just a little bit of what you would expect to happen when a student tests positive, what you would expect to happen in that classroom going forward?
Dr. Mandy Cohen: (41:28)
Thanks Travis. So again, did the student test positive and were they out of school for a number of days? We would do what we would do now at first related to someone being positive, we would work on contact tracing and understanding what are their close contacts. If it was an elementary school, it’s likely that they would have been cohorted and would have been with the same number of students and one teacher throughout the day, and would have only come into contact with those students. And in that case, right, we would be doing contact tracing, alerting those folks who were the close contacts, again, more than 10 minutes, less than six feet apart from those folks. And then telling those others that they’ve been exposed, that they need to go get testing. And then, we’d work with folks on some cleaning protocols that are outlined there.
Dr. Mandy Cohen: (42:21)
And then, making sure that folks are getting in touch with the local health department to tailor that situation. It doesn’t mean immediately that a school needs to close. They may want to go beyond our protocols and do that again. It depends on the situation. What was the age of the kid? How are those contacts arrived at? So again, we don’t want to have a one size fits all. We really do need to tailor to what the situation is. What kind of student? How long were they in school? What were their contacts? And that’s why we really need local health department involved in each one of those situations. But we do want to make sure that we’re tracing contacts, alerting folks, getting them tested, getting folks quarantined, just like we would do with other types of positive that we would see in other settings. Thank you.
Governor Roy Cooper: (43:11)
Thanks. Next question, please.
Speaker 3: (43:15)
Our next question is from Derek Dellinger with Fox 46.
Derek Dellinger: (43:20)
Thank you for taking my question. This is Derek Dellinger with Fox 46 in Charlotte. Actually, I have two questions. One revolves around high school sports and extracurricular activities. I know that North Carolina High School Athletic Association, they have not really taken any action yet in regards to how this coming sports season is going to be managed. So there’s a question there as [inaudible 00:43:41] the guidance that you would probably give not only to schools, but also to the high school athletic association.
Derek Dellinger: (43:45)
The second question revolves around something that was enacted over the weekend down in South Carolina, the governor limiting restaurants from selling alcohol after 11:00 PM. We know this is something that is being considered in Mecklenburg County, has already been implemented in another way in Orange County to help curb spread among young people getting COVID-19, particularly the 21 to 10 year age group. Is this something that is being considered in any way, shape, and form statewide?
Governor Roy Cooper: (44:14)
Thank you. The North Carolina High School Athletic Association will be making the decisions about high school sports and what they’re going to engage in. I love all sports and enjoyed playing them in high school. And I know a lot of our student athletes, children want to get back into playing sports. The association will be consulting with public health experts, including our staff here at the Department of Health and Human Services. And it’s my understanding that they will be making specific decisions a little bit later on in the process. As to the no alcohol after 10:00, I think that this can be a good idea for some communities and certainly would encourage local governments, if they believe that this will help slow the spread in their communities.
Governor Roy Cooper: (45:08)
And particularly some of these college towns, places where a lot of people are coming back, then certainly we want those local governments to make those decisions. And certainly, all of those decisions on a statewide basis are on the table for us to consider. But the first thing we do is we look at our numbers, our trends, our indicators that we always look at. We look at where we see the spread happening and we make decisions based on the evidence and the facts. And before we would make that kind of decision statewide, we would go through that process. Thanks. Next question, please.
Speaker 3: (45:51)
Our next question is from Alex Gernado with Education NC.
Alex Gernardo: (45:54)
Hi, governor. In reference to the masks that you’re providing to students, teachers, and the staff, is that going to be five each week for all of them? And is that going to be sufficient, particularly in the lower grades, like elementary school, where students might go through more than one mask today?
Governor Roy Cooper: (46:16)
So thanks for that question. First, there are five reusable, washable masks. So there are masks that children and staff and teachers can continue to use. And this will be at least five. We’re hoping more money will come. We understand that more supplies will be needed. We know that local school systems will be able to buy their own and there’s money in their budgets to be able to buy their own and their are vendors that are ready to sell. We’re encouraging businesses to try and donate masks to schools, to try to help them out just as they would other school supplies. So we want to make sure that our schools have sufficient personal protective equipment. And this is sort of a get you started, something that you can can use to make sure that everybody’s protected. Anything you want to add to that? Okay. Thanks. Next question, please.
Speaker 3: (47:17)
Our last question today will be from Richard Craver with the Winston Salem journal.
Drew Wilson: (47:21)
Hello, governor. This is Richard Craver with the Winston Salem Journal. I have a two part question to end with. First of all, when it comes to the phase two, obviously it’s being overshadowed a little bit today because of the decision on the schools. But what kind of deliberation did you use in terms of internal within North Carolina, then looking at other states in terms of deciding to go ahead and continue to pause. And then I guess, what are you saying to those businesses that are being affected by the extension of the pause?
Governor Roy Cooper: (47:57)
We have concern about our businesses throughout North Carolina and want to get everything going as quickly as we possibly can, but we also know that we have to slow the spread of the virus. We see what’s happening in other states. Many of their hospitals are being overwhelmed. And although we don’t have that yet in North Carolina, we have seen a steady upward rise in numbers of cases, a steady upward rise in hospitalizations. We’ve continued to see more people presenting to the emergency department with COVID like symptoms and that’s on the rise. And so those numbers continue to be concerning. And we don’t want to start easing restrictions and moving ahead in our phases with those numbers like they are right now. Dr. Cohen, would you want to add anything to that? I think she’s got it. Okay. We thank you all for being with us today and please stay healthy and safe. Thank you.