RALEIGH — Gov. Roy Cooper said on July 9 that an announcement on the plan for reopening schools this fall will be made next week.

"There are critical decisions ahead on how we reopen schools and whether we continue to ease restrictions on certain businesses. On schools, we continue to get excellent input from teachers, superintendents and health officials," Cooper said during a press briefing. "We want our children back in school safely, and we will have an official announcement next week. We’ll also have an announcement next week about the executive order that ends on July 17."

Cooper noted that July 9 set a new high for people currently hospitalized with the COVID-19 virus, at 1,034. It was also the day with the second-highest total of new cases reported, at 2,039.

"It’s good that we still have hospital and ICU bed capacity," Cooper said. "But what we know is this: The disease continues to spread, and though North Carolina isn’t a surging hotspot like some other states, we could be if we don’t stay strong in our fight."

Guidelines released in early June anticipated three reopening scenarios: Plan A, which calls for minimal social distancing; Plan B, which calls for moderate social distancing; or Plan C, which would result in remote learning only. An announcement on the school reopening plans was initially anticipated one week earlier, on July 1, but Cooper said last week that the state needed more time. 

“We want our schools to be safe for students and for teachers," Cooper said, speaking July 9.

Cooper noted that he was on a call with other governors this week with Vice President Mike Pence and U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who shared the president's recent emphasis on getting children back to school.

“I think it’s really important that we separate all of the politics here and talk about what’s best for our children," said Cooper.

N.C. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen said that hospitals in the state still have capacity to meet demand, but that hospitalizations are a "lagging indicator" of those who were infected days or weeks earlier. She said it's important to look at other metrics and think ahead.

“We are particularly concerned about the Charlotte area and their capacity," Cohen said.

Cooper urged continued vigilance in wearing face coverings, practicing social distancing and washing hands, adding that "flattening the curve is not a one-time thing."

“We say it over and over and over gain, but it’s so true," Cooper said. "If we do that, we can make progress on this virus and we can continue to ease restrictions.”

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