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home : news : news December 3, 2020

10/1/2020 1:34:00 AM
COVID-19: School Closed, Phase 3 Begins

Wayne Howard
News Journalist


There's mixed news on the COVID-19 pandemic.

Governor Roy Cooper announced Wednesday afternoon that the state will now--cautiously--enter Phase 3 of his reopening plan.

North Carolina will ease cautiously some restrictions while continuing safety measures to combat the spread of the virus. “Our top priority remains getting children back to in-person learning. This month marks a major shift for many families now and in the coming months as schools open their doors, some for the first time since the pandemic,” said Governor Cooper. “The virus continues to spread, so we must take the next steps methodically, and responsibly.”

NC Dept. of Health & Human Resources (NCDHHS) Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen reviewed the state’s key metrics:

  • The trajectory in COVID-like illnesses (CLI) surveillance Over the last 14 days has seen a slight increase.
  • The state's trajectory of lab-confirmed cases is level.
  • The trajectory in percent of tests for the disease returning positive has increased slightly over the last 14 days--it was near 5%; it has climbed back to about 6%.
  • The trajectory in hospitalizations related to the coronavirus is level.

In addition to these metrics, Cohen said the state continues building capacity to adequately respond to an increase in virus spread in testing, tracing and prevention. No-cost testing events are being deployed across the state and testing turnaround times are improving.

The state will ease some restrictions starting Friday (Oct. 2nd) at 5 PM. Executive Order 169 will remain in effect for three weeks through October 23rd. The new provisions include:

  • Large outdoor venues with seating greater than 10,000 may operate with 7% occupancy for spectators.
  • Smaller outdoor entertainment venues, like arenas or amphitheaters, may operate outdoors at 30% of outdoor capacity, or 100 guests, whichever is less.
  • Movie theaters and conference centers may open indoor spaces to 30% of capacity, or 100 guests, whichever is less.
  • Bars may operate outdoors at 30% of outdoor capacity, or 100 guests, whichever is less, but indoor only bars will not be able to open.
  • Amusement parks may open at 30% occupancy with outdoor attractions only.
  • The limits on mass gatherings will remain at 25 people indoors and 50 people outdoors.
  • The 11 PM curfew on alcoholic beverage sales for in-person consumption in locations such as restaurants and outdoor bars will be extended to October 23rd.

It may not be all that good...but that's the good news. The bad news includes that Cleveland County Schools announced Wednesday the temporary closing of Crest High School due to the coronavirus. The school sent home a letter to parents on Wednesday explaining the closure. It said:

“During our efforts to maintain healthy students and staff, we have identified multiple cases of COVID-19 involving persons at Crest High School as well as several employees/students awaiting test results. To avoid additional spread, Cleveland County Schools and the Cleveland County Health Department have made the decision to close the school building and campus temporarily for student learning and extracurricular activities.”

The school district did not say how many cases were identified. Only one school in our area (Lincoln, Catawba, Gaston & Cleveland counties) was listed on the Tuesday report from NCDHHS as having an outbreak--that was the Webb Street School in Gastonia, which had to close temporarily two weeks ago. One daycare center in Maiden and one in Denver were also on that list. It will be updated again on Friday.

At Crest High School, students and employees will not be allowed back into the school for in-person instruction until Thursday Oct. 15th. Until then, the school will move to fully remote learning.

According the letter, while other schools have reported cases of COVID-19, those were believed to be isolated.



3 - City of Lincolnton - Recycle Friday

The Catawba County School Board also approved going to Plan A later this month, but unlike Lincoln County, those who choose not to return to all in-school classes will have the option of choosing remote learning--and no doctor's note will be required. The Catawba County School Board voted Monday to phase in Plan A (in-person learning) for younger students as follows:

  • 2nd and 3rd grades will begin in-person learning Monday - Thursday on October 20th.
  • 4th and 5th grades will begin Monday - Thursday on November 30th. The extra time will be needed, the schools said, to implement a plan to reduce the larger class sizes to improve social distancing between students.
  • Fridays will continue to be remote learning days for all K-12 students, and students in grades 6-12 will continue under Plan B for the time being.
  • 100% remote learning will continue for families who are not comfortable with in-person learning. Principals are contacting parents this week about an opportunity to switch to/from 100% remote learning if there is space available and if there is available staffing to accommodate the requests.

Governor Cooper approved the change to Plan A--at the discretion of local school boards--week before last.

Lincoln Charter School, which had started the year with all remote learning, will switch to Plan A, which calls for in-school classes five days per week, for grades K-5 effective October 19th. The Lincoln Charter Schoool Board made that decision last Monday night (September 21st). They also decided to move to Plan B (a mixture of in-person and remote learning) for grades 7-8 starting October 19th and for grades 9-12 starting October 26th.

The Lincoln County Board of Education met last Thursday morning (September 24th) and decided to switch from Plan B to Plan A for grades K-5 beginning Tuesday October 13th. That week, elementary students will go to school four days. Beginning Monday October 19th, elementary students and staff will transition to a full Plan ‘A’, five days per week of face-to-face instruction. Students and families currently on Plan ‘C’ (all remote learning) will be required to have a medically approved recommendation to continue with remote learning beyond October 19th.

That decision to require a medical exemption to continue (or begin) remote learning instead of five days per week in-school has drawn fire from many parents, as has the decision to have that special called meeting at 9 AM Thursday morning, when most parents were working. The decision came on a 4-2 vote. Board member Tony Jenkins wasn't present, but Heather Rhyne, Cathy Davis, Todd Wulfhorst (via zoom) and Mark Mullen all voted in favor of the change. Kirk Herbertson and Joan Avery voted 'no.'

We were frankly disappointed that the subject wasn't brought up as one of the questions in the East Lincoln Betterment Association's interviews with School Board candidates Tuesday evening. That video is available on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u3bU-Xa0hEc&feature=youtu.be.

The Gaston County School Board voted early last week not to go to Plan A at this time. Supt. Jeff Booker told the board that more time would be needed to prepare for that change. Booker said the change would require adding another dozen or more desks to every classroom for classes up to fifth grade and that it would make socially distancing essentially impossible. He also urged the board to talk further with teachers and parents before making any decision.

Gaston County's number of active COVID-19 cases declined again Wednesday. It's now 1,190, but another death brought that figure to 87. Cleveland County's active case count also declined slightly, to 199, but the county also reported seven more deaths since Monday bringing that total to 69. Catawba County, which had been having new case numbers in the teens saw 33 more added on Thursday. Another death brought that figure to 55. Lincoln County will make its next report on the virus on Friday afternoon.

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