Gov. Cooper announces students and educators will not return to school buildings for the remainder of this school year

Today, Governor Roy Cooper announced that public schools in North Carolina will remain closed for normal operations for the remainder of this school year. Schools were originally scheduled to be closed through May 15. Students are currently continuing their schoolwork via various remote learning methods.

State Superintendent Mark Johnson said that while there was hope schools could eventually reopen this school year, the current COVID-19 situation in North Carolina does not make that possible.

“Teachers, staff, and students were hopeful that they could return to the classroom, but that is just not practical at this point,” said Superintendent Johnson. “However, I want to assure everyone that this will not be the new normal. While this crisis has forced us to be reactive over the last month, plans for next school year are already underway and will be proactive. We will share more on these proactive measures soon.”

Superintendent Johnson praised the work that educators and parents across North Carolina have done to help students continue their studies while schools have been closed.

“We all had to switch to remote learning overnight,” said Superintendent Johnson. “Many children, like my own, are working through the difficult emotional toll of this frightening time. And, we are all stuck at home; all day, every day.”

The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction has continued to work to ensure that students and families have the resources they need. That not only includes providing ways to get instructional materials to students, but also making sure they have access to things such as proper nutrition. DPI has been working closely with local school districts to provide whatever assistance they might need during this time.

At a special called meeting yesterday, the State Board of Education approved a plan on how grading will work in public schools for the current school year. Information on that plan can be found here.

In light of the Governor’s announcement that students will not return to schools for the remainder of the 2019-20 school year, the State Board’s decision to not seek progress monitoring data for the remainder of the 2019-20 school year, and the novel needs K-3 students, educators, and parents will face next school year, DPI has terminated the June 2019 Read to Achieve diagnostic tool contract and will immediately begin a new process to procure one, uniform reading diagnostic tool before the start of the 2020-21 school year.

Governor extends Stay at Home order through May 8, plans three phase lifting of restrictions

Governor Extends Stay At Home Order Through May 8, Plans Three Phase Lifting of Restrictions Based on Virus Trends

RALEIGH:  Governor Roy Cooper today issued Executive Order No. 135 extending North Carolina’s Stay At Home order through May 8. The orders extending closure of restaurants for dine-in service and bars and closure of other close-contact businesses are also extended through May 8.

Governor Cooper shared details about North Carolina’s plan to lift restrictions in three phases once the data show that key metrics are headed in the right direction.

“The health and safety of people in North Carolina must be our top priority,” Cooper said. “This plan provides a roadmap for us to begin easing restrictions in stages to push our economy forward.”

Last week, Governor Cooper laid out the path forward centered on three things: testing, tracing and trends. Today, Governor Cooper and Dr. Mandy Cohen, Secretary of NC Department of Health and Human Services, shared more specifics on those key metrics. The Stay At Home and other orders are extended today because North Carolina has not yet seen a downward trajectory of those metrics needed to begin gradually lifting restrictions.

“North Carolina cannot stay at home indefinitely,” added Governor Cooper. “We have to get more people back to work. Right now, the decision to stay at home is based on the public health data and White House guidance. North Carolina needs more time to slow the spread of this virus before we can safely begin lifting restrictions. I know that this pandemic has made life difficult for many people in our state and I am focused on keeping our communities safe while planning to slowly lift restrictions to help cushion the blow to our economy.”
“Data has driven our decisions, starting with the aggressive measures Governor Cooper took early on to slow the spread of COVID-19. Those actions combined with North Carolinians’ resolve to stay home to protect their loved ones have put our state on the right path. If we stick to these efforts right now we will continue to see a slowing of virus spread and we can slowly begin easing restrictions,” said Secretary Cohen.

A detailed look at where North Carolina stands on testing, tracing and trends. The metrics that North Carolina is considering aligns with the White House guidance for Opening Up American Again.

In order to begin lifting restrictions, North Carolina needs to see progress in these key metrics:
• Sustained Leveling or Decreased Trajectory in COVID-Like Illness (CLI) Surveillance Over 14 Days
• Currently, North Carolina’s syndromic surveillance trend for COVID-like illness is decreasing over the last 14 days.

• Sustained Leveling or Decreased Trajectory of Lab-Confirmed Cases Over 14 Days
• Currently, North Carolina’s trajectory of lab-confirmed cases over the last 14 days cases is still increasing, although at a slower rate.

• Sustained Leveling or Decreased Trajectory in Percent of Tests Returning Positive Over 14 Days
• Currently, North Carolina’s trajectory in percent of tests returning positive over the last 14 days is increasing at a slow rate.

• Sustained Leveling or Decreased Trajectory in Hospitalizations Over 14 Days
• Currently, North Carolina’s trajectory of hospitalizations over the last 14 days is largely level with a slight trend upward.

In addition to these metrics, the state will continue building capacity to be able to adequately respond to an increase in virus spread. These include:
• Increase in Laboratory Testing
• Currently, North Carolina is testing approximately 2,500 to 3,000 people per day and is working to increase to at least 5,000 to 7,000 per day.

• Increase in Tracing Capability
• Currently, North Carolina has approximately 250 people doing contact tracing across its local health departments and is working to double this workforce to 500.

• Availability of Personal Protective Equipment
• The state is working to ensure there are adequate supplies to fulfill requests for critical PPE for at least 30 days. This includes face shields, gloves, gowns, N95 masks, and surgical and procedural masks. Currently the state has less than 30 days supply of gowns and N95 masks. Availability of PPE is calculated based on the average number of requests for the last 14 days compared to the supply that the state has on hand.

Governor Cooper also shared information about how North Carolina can gradually re-open over three phases to prevent hot spots of viral spread while also beginning to bring our economy back. These phases are based on the best information available now, but could be altered as new information emerges.

In Phase 1:
• Modify the Stay At Home order allow travel not currently defined as essential allowing people to leave home for commercial activity at any business that is allowed to be open, such as clothing stores, sporting goods stores, book shops, houseware stores and other retailers.
• Ensure that any open stores implement appropriate employee and consumer social distancing, enhanced hygiene and cleaning protocols, symptom screening of employees, accommodations for vulnerable workers, and provide education to employees and workers to combat misinformation
• Continue to limit gatherings to no more than 10 people
• Reopen parks that have been closed subject to the same gathering limitation. Outdoor exercise will continue to be encouraged.
• Continue to recommend face coverings in public spaces when 6 feet of distancing isn’t possible
• Encourage employers to continue teleworking policies
• Continue rigorous restrictions on nursing homes and other congregant care settings
• Local emergency orders with more restrictive measures may remain in place.

Phase 2
At least 2-3 weeks after Phase 1
• Lift Stay At Home order with strong encouragement for vulnerable populations to continue staying at home to stay safe
• Allow limited opening of restaurants, bars, fitness centers, personal care services, and other businesses that can follow safety protocols including the potential need to reduce capacity
• Allow gathering at places such as houses of worship and entertainment venues at reduced capacity
• Increase in number of people allowed at gatherings
• Open public playgrounds
• Continue rigorous restrictions on nursing homes and other congregant care settings

Phase 3
At least 4-6 weeks after Phase 2
• Lessen restrictions for vulnerable populations with encouragement to continue practicing physical distancing and minimizing exposure to settings where distancing isn’t possible
• Allow increased capacity at restaurants, bars, other businesses, houses of worships, and entertainment venues
• Further increase the number of people allowed at gatherings
• Continue rigorous restrictions on nursing homes and other congregant care settings

Governor Cooper and Dr. Cohen both underscored the need for the testing, tracing and trends to move in the right direction for each of these phases to move forward. If there is a spike in infections, tightening of restrictions may be needed temporarily.

Information about K-12 public schools will follow later this week.

First COVID-19 death in Pender County

BURGAW- Pender County Health Department reported the first death due to COVID-19 in the county. The patient, an offender from the Pender County Correctional Institution, passed away in the evening of April 21.

“Coronavirus has caused deaths around our region and it’s difficult when one occurs,” said Carolyn Moser, Pender County Health and Human Services director.

The Pender County Board of County Commissioners issued a statement expressing their sympathies to the family of the COVID-19 patient who lost his life at the hospital.

“Pender County residents should continue to practice social distancing, stay at home, and practice good hygiene,” said Moser. “We know these measures work in our effort to mitigate this virus.”

The Pender County Commissioners urged residents to take the threat of COVID-19 seriously and follow the guidelines set forth by the county health department, Center for Disease Control and North Carolina Health and Human Services.

While the offender’s death was the first in Pender County, his death was also the first death in the state’s prison system. The North Carolina Department of Public Safety also issued a release.

“Any death is a tragedy, and we must continue our efforts to do all we can to try and flatten the curve of COVID-19 in Prisons,” said Todd Ishee, Commissioner of Prisons. “The health and safety of the staff and the men and women in our custody is of paramount importance.”

The offender exhibited symptoms of a viral infection on April 8, 2020. He was promptly isolated from the population, in keeping with guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the NC Department of Health and Human Services and tested for COVID-19. The test came back positive on April 10, 2020. Despite constant medical attention, he was hospitalized on April 13, 2020. His condition worsened, and the offender died at the hospital on April 21.

The offender was a male in his late fifties and had underlying health conditions. Given his family’s right to privacy and the confidentiality of prison offender records, the Department of Public Safety will not further identify the individual.

Prisons leadership has taken a substantial number of actions throughout the North Carolina prison system to try to prevent transmission of the virus. Those actions, along with offender testing information that is updated daily, are found on the North Carolina Department of Public Safety website.

Assistance programs to navigate COVID-19 impacts

Just a few weeks ago we didn’t have acronyms such as COVID, PPE, PPP, and DUA. It’s difficult to keep up, especially when you need assistance for your health, your business, and your everyday life.

Please review the attached documents provided by the North Carolina Department of Health and Humans Services and Pender County Health and Human Services.

Program Descriptions
County Flyer for Applying for Services
Combined Flyer with Program Description

 

 

Pender Correctional Institution takes a proactive approach to COVID-19

Four offenders have been diagnosed with Coronavirus

BURGAW –Leadership for the Pender Correctional Institution, a North Carolina Division of Prisons facility, has taken proactive measures to contain and reduce the spread of Coronavirus.

“Currently, the prison has four confirmed cases of COVID-19,” said Carolyn Moser, Pender County Health and Human Services director. “The prison medical staff is proactive and collaborating with the health department’s communicable disease staff.”

The North Carolina Department of Public Safety is taking a proactive and aggressive approach to protect staff and offenders, prison officials state.

Among the actions taken include:

• A moratorium on accepting offenders from county jails;
• Suspension of visitation and offender outside work assignments;
• Medical screenings for all staff entering the prison;
• Reducing offender interactions;
• Providing additional Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to staff.

North Carolina Department of Public Safety said during the COVID-19 pandemic, the top priority is the safety and health of employees, those incarcerated, and the general public.

“Confirmed cases of COVID-19 within the Pender Correctional Institution are included in the Pender County case count.” Moser said. “The offenders are residents of Pender County and all tests results are recorded with the Pender County Health Department.”

Additional food benefits for children impacted by the pandemic

NCDHHS to Provide Additional Food Benefits for More than 800,000 Children Impacted by the COVID-19 Pandemic

RALEIGH:  Governor Roy Cooper announced today that North Carolina has been approved for the new Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) program, to help families purchase food for children impacted by school closings due to COVID-19. NCDHHS is working to operationalize the program and families will begin to receive this benefit in coming weeks.

“So many families are in need, especially with so many out of work right now. This approval helps people get assistance faster to feed their families,” said Governor Cooper.

The program provides a benefit on an EBT card to North Carolina families whose children are eligible for free and reduced lunch at school. Families will receive $250 in P-EBT benefits per child, provided in two installments, with the possibility of an additional benefit if North Carolina schools are closed beyond May 15. Families will be able to use the P-EBT benefit to purchase food items at EBT authorized retailers, including most major grocery stores.

Families will not need to apply for the P-EBT program. P-EBT eligible families already receiving Food and Nutrition Services (FNS) benefits will receive an additional benefit on their existing EBT card. P-EBT eligible families not already enrolled in FNS will be mailed a new EBT card in the next few weeks. Families who receive a new EBT card will receive a letter from DHHS in the mail explaining how to activate and use their card.

“As our schools closed, many families across the state worried about where their next meals would come from—and we knew we had to take action,” said NC Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen, M.D. “The P-EBT program will provide extra help buying groceries for the families of the more than 800,000 children who normally receive free and reduced lunch at school.”
North Carolina is one of the first four states to receive federal approval from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to provide P-EBT benefits, which are entirely federally funded.

The new P-EBT program is in addition to other services families may be participating in. As announced previously on March 30, 2020, all families that receive Food and Nutrition Services (FNS) will receive the maximum amount allowed for March and April 2020 for their household size. Families are encouraged to continue utilizing feeding programs at local school and community meal sites for free, nutritious meals for children.

Need health insurance? You have options!

NEED HEALTH INSURANCE?

You have health insurance options. If you have recently lost or can no longer afford your health insurance, or even if you are trying to purchase health insurance for the first time, you have options to make sure that you and your family have access to care. Find out more at healthcare.gov.

You have health insurance options. If you have recently lost your health insurance, you can no longer afford it, or even if you are trying to buy medical insurance for the first time, you have options to ensure that you and your family have access to health care: 

Health Insurance Options Form English

Health Insurance Options Form Spanish 

 

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