CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Governor Cooper said North Carolina public school districts will be permitted to choose option A (full in-person learning) for elementary school students in kindergarten through 5th grade beginning on October 5.
"As we laid out this summer, option A continues to include important safety measures like required face coverings for all students, teachers and staff, social distancing and symptom screening," Gov. Cooper stressed.
Cooper noted that plan A does not require schools to reduce the number of children in the classroom. Students in grades 6-12 still must operate only under Option B, which is partially in person and partially remote or Option C, which is all remote.
"I want to be clear, Plan A may not be right at this time for many school districts and for every family," Gov. Cooper said. "Opportunities for remote learning need to be available for families who choose it. And districts will have the flexibility to select a plan based on their unique situation."
Cooper said he was able to make this decision because most North Carolinians have doubled down on safety and prevention measures and stabilized our numbers.
"The science of lower viral spread among younger children also backs up this decision," Cooper said.
Dr. Mandy Cohen, North Carolina's Dept. of Health and Human Services Secretary, said the lower risk to younger students, coupled with the higher benefit of in-person instruction for that age group led officials to ushering K-5 students back to Plan A first.
"There seems to be a different way that the virus is interacting with those younger kids," Cohen said. "They seem to get COVID less often. They seem to get less severely sick, and they transmit it less often."
Cohen said over the last two weeks, case numbers for school-aged children have been declining, particularly for younger elementary students.
CMS to stick with their reopening plan
On Wednesday night, the Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools Board of Education approved a plan to bring students back for in-person learning in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools district.
Following Thursday's announcement from the governor, CMS confirmed it would stick to its plan approved Wednesday night at that CMS Board of Education a special meeting.
The district released a statement to WCNC Charotte, which reads in part:
"A key component of Gov. Cooper’s announcement today is that decisions on returning more students and staff to classrooms are left to school boards to make, based on what is right for individual districts. The approved recommendation voted on last night by our BOE represents a measured, evidence-based approach to returning students to our facilities in a manner that shows appropriate concern for their wellbeing, as well as for that of our staff and all CMS families. When local conditions indicate it is appropriate to bring larger numbers of students together in the classroom, we will make that recommendation to our Board."
After hours of discussion Wednesday, CMS announced the phased-in approach for Plan B. The motion passed in a 6-3 vote.
- Phase 1: Pre-K would return October 12
- Phase 2: K-5 would return November 2
- Phase 3: 6-8 would return November 23
- Phase 4: High School would return December 14
North Carolina coronavirus data trends
On Thursday, Dr. Mandy Cohen, Secretary of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services shared an update on North Carolina’s data trends. Dr. Cohen explained that North Carolina has seen a sustained leveling or decrease of key metrics.
“Our trends show that we are on the right track. It’s up to all of us to protect our progress. Our individual actions like those 3 Ws will help keep our school doors open.,” said Secretary Cohen.
Dr. Cohen also explained that as schools have opened, the current science shows that younger children are less likely to become infected, have symptoms, experience severe disease or spread the virus.
“It’s great news today that we are a step closer to providing the option of in-person learning to families who want their children to return to school,” said Superintendent of Public Instruction Mark Johnson. “While the Governor, the State Board of Education, and I have our differences, I join with them today to encourage local school board members to take advantage of this change and open all schools safely. I thank the many parents and teachers across North Carolina who have been vocal advocates on this important issue.”
“For the past 6 months, superintendents, principals, teachers and local BOE have worked diligently to care for the safety of our students and staff while educating our children. While we are anxious to return all students, we know that teachers, principals, and students need a gradual transition over the next 3 months. I ask our parents to remain patient, knowing that we are moving as quickly as is safely possible. And I ask our teachers to continue to assist our students by supporting this deliberate, thoughtful transition," said Eric Davis, Chairman of the State Board of Education.
NCDHHS reported about 3 in 4 reported cases were adults ages 20 to 59 years old. About 1 in 4 reported cases were Hispanic, most of who were younger adults.
According to the latest numbers released by NCDHHS, of the three hundred-thirty-two deaths due to Covid-19, almost all deaths were among older adults (age 60 and up.) Four deaths were adults between the ages of 20 and 29 and 43 deaths were adults ages 40 to 59. All except five of those deaths were adults with underlying chronic illnesses.
COVID-19 BY THE NUMBERS:
- Cases in North Carolina: 189,576 lab-confirmed cases with 3,180
deaths. DHHS reported 1,552 new cases of coronavirus on Thursday. The percentage of positive results has risen slightly to 5.6% NCDHHS is reporting 894 people hospitalized.
- Cases in South Carolina: 131,428 total cases of COVID-19 with 2,694 deaths. The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) announced 489 confirmed cases of coronavirus on Wednesday and 28 additional confirmed deaths. The percentage of positive tests in South Carolina was 13.5%, and the state completed 3,635 tests Tuesday.
- Cases in Mecklenburg County: 27,394 Mecklenburg County residents have tested positive for coronavirus and 341 related deaths have been reported since the pandemic began. According to Mecklenburg County data, an average of 5.8% of individuals tested were positive for COVID-19 over the last 14 days. Hospitalizations are also decreasing.