CHARLOTTE, N.C. — North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper plans to announce the state's learning plan for the upcoming school year next week, along with what will happen when the state's Phase 2 reopening expires July 17.
The governor noted that upcoming announcement schedule during Thursday's COVID-19 update, where the Department of Health and Human Services reported hospitalizations for coronavirus topped 1,000 for the first time during the pandemic.
DHHS also reported over 2,000 new cases in a single day for just the second time Thursday. It was also a big day for COVID-19 testing, with the percent of positive results remaining stable at 9%.
DHHS Sec. Mandy Cohen gave her evaluation on where the state's key metrics stand, noting the reports of COVID-like illness (considered an "early warning sign") have been increasing over the last few weeks--a bad sign. Cohen said the trajectory of new cases is also increasing, a second strike.
The state's positive test rate is "stable, but elevated," and hospitalizations are increasing, with capacity remaining--both warranting monitoring, but not necessary a failing mark, Cohen said.
Coronavirus pandemic in Charlotte
Cohen also singled out the Charlotte area for a second day in a row regarding the region's hospitalization metric. Wednesday, Cohen had noted the region was seeing more growth in hospitalizations than other parts of the state.
Health officials are in constant contact with Charlotte-area hospitals, which have been most recently reported at 80 percent capacity, and Cohen said the hospitals are doing a good job in keep beds open.
However, she was concerned with how quickly the tables can turn, saying DHHS will continue to monitor things, not wanting to have a situation where the area runs out of room and procedures have to be canceled.
A pending decision about reopening schools
More clarity on how schools should proceed with learning programs--in-person, remote only, or a combination of the two--will be welcome for educators and parents alike.
Wednesday, State Superintendent Mark Johnson told WCNC Charlotte after the governor delayed the anticipated July 1 announcement of a learning plan choice, he heard from many school districts.
"I did have a call with the governor, and I did express to him there's a lot of frustration among local leaders that they still don't know what the plan is," Johnson said.
So far, school officials have publicly discussed three scenarios, including all remote learning and all in-person classes. Cooper said last month that getting students back in the classroom is his number one priority for the upcoming year.
“Getting children back to school to learn is a high priority, but they must be able to do so in the safest way possible,” said Governor Cooper. “Every child, family and public school educator in North Carolina deserves strong protection to lower the risk of virus spread.”
The State Board of Education is meeting again Thursday to discuss how federal funding will be allocated this year. A study found the average school will need to spend $2,300 on every student to protect teachers, staff and children from COVID-19.
"This is something that is completely unprecedented for all of North Carolina and the United States," Johnson said.