The North Carolina Senate unanimously approved a bipartisan bill to reopen K-12 pubic schools only hours after North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper announced it Wednesday (March 10th). The NC House is expected also to unanimously approve the bill Thursday and Cooper will sign it into law before the weekend.
Governor Roy Cooper and leaders of the General Assembly announced all elementary schools in North Carolina would be required to move to Plan A, which is fully in-person. Middle and high schools would have the option of being in Plan A or Plan B, which is a hybrid option of in-person and remote learning.
State school guidance already allows middle and high schools to operate under the 6-foot requirement and Lincoln County Schools began doing that in January with the start of the second semester, although maintaining that 6-ft. separation caused some schools to have to limit the number of students they could handle. Under the plan announced Wednesday, that restriction is relaxed: districts will have to notify state officials when grades 6 through 12 move to daily instruction without physical distancing; and the governor could scale back in-person instruction in specific districts if deemed necessary because of any significant increase in COVID cases.
The pandemic continues--but the number of new cases and hospitalizations has declined sharply from what it was in January. The percentage of positive tests for the virus in North Carolina increased slightly Tuesday to 5.2% and Wednesday to 5.3%. All last week, the statewide testing positive percentage was below 5%. Even so, there was good news: Tuesday, for the first time since last Summer, the number of new cases reported in a day dropped below a thousand. The NCDHHS reported 997 new cases statewide Tuesday. It was up again to 1,865 on Wednesday. Hospitalizations were at 1,147 Tuesday and 1,075 Wednesday--down from around 4,000 in January.
Catawba County reported only 21 new cases on Tuesday and 27 Wednesday. Hospitalizations there were down to just 23. Gaston County had just 22 hospitalized, and the county's percentage of positive tests was also down--now just 6.1%. Cleveland County reported 175 active cases, but only 12 county residents hospitalized with the virus.
Lincoln County reported 121 known active cases on Tuesday, but the number of people who are said to have recovered from the viruswas up by ten from Friday to 8,704.
Since the pandemic began, Lincoln County has had 81 related deaths, Catawba County 288, Cleveland County 217, and Gaston County 400.