Cooper: State updating guidance for schools to align with CDC recommendations on masks

Published: Jul. 29, 2021 at 11:05 AM EDT
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RALEIGH, N.C. (WECT) - North Carolina is changing its guidance on masks in schools to align with the most recent recommendations from the CDC, state officials announced Thursday.

The state says that school systems should require everyone in kindergarten through 12th grade wear a mask indoors, regardless of their vaccination status. That includes students, teachers, staff and visitors.

“We know that our students under the age of 12 do not have the ability to get vaccinated,” NCDHH Services Secretary Mandy K. Cohen said. “We need to protect them and make sure that our kids can be in classroom safely. We want kids in the classroom, and we can do it safely when we use the protocols that are in the toolkit.”

Cooper: Get a vaccine today

With the number of COVID-19 quickly rising in the state, Cooper is urging those who are unvaccinated to get the vaccine immediately.

“After months of low numbers, our trends have turned sharply in the wrong direction. I want to be clear about why: Unvaccinated people are driving this resurgence and getting themselves and other people sick,” Cooper said. “People who are unvaccinated make up most all of our cases where people are getting sick and hospitalized. The Delta variant of COVID is even more contagious to those who are not vaccinated. It doesn’t matter your age or race. If you are not vaccinated, you are at great risk.”

On Thursday, the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services reported 3,268 new cases statewide, the most cases North Carolina has seen in five months. Hospitalizations have tripled since the beginning of July with 1,141 reported today — the most since April 22.

“We are hearing from doctors about people in the ICU begging for the vaccine right before they are put on a ventilator. By then, it’s too late. So here is my message to anyone who has yet to get a shot: Get a vaccine today,” Cooper said. “Don’t wait until you or a family member is sick and going on a ventilator. Don’t wait until we run out of hospital beds. Don’t wait until skyrocketing numbers threaten to shut businesses or cancel sports. Don’t wait until you infect someone you love. Get a vaccine today.

“The vaccines are safe, effective, free and available in every community. This vaccine could save your life. This virus is now much more contagious and spreading fast and it will find you if you are unvaccinated.”

New Executive Order

Cooper said that he is issuing a new Executive Order which directs state government cabinet agencies to verify whether their employees are vaccinated. This would go into effect on Sept.1.

“Unvaccinated employees will be tested at least once a week and required to wear a mask,” Cooper said. “We are strongly urging other state government agencies and private businesses to, at a minimum, do the same. Many businesses are going a step further and requiring their employees to get vaccinated, and I applaud that.”

State Treasure Dale Folwell in an interview following Governor Cooper’s announcement said he did not receive any correspondence from the governor’s office prior to Thursday’s announcement and stressed there needs to be more transparency.

His office is not directly affected by the order since it does not fall under the Governor’s cabinet, but added the Council of State, which is the ten statewide elected officials, has not met since February of last year to “discuss any real, deep issue regarding covid-19.”

“Well let’s be clear there can only be one governor but I cannot imagine somebody thinking that they know more about food chain supply than the Secretary of Agriculture, or more about public schools than the Superintendent of Public Instruction, or more about how this effects the economy than the State Treasurer, or how it impacts the labor market with the Labor Commissioner,” Folwell said. “Now the fact is that I can’t imagine managing through a pandemic and not convening the constitutionally elected Council of State to talk about these very important topics. And once again, it’s a lack of transparency and also the inability to challenge assumptions regarding what’s in the best interest of our citizens.”

Treasury Folwell would like for the Council of State to meet “for as long as it takes to simply talk about these issues” rather than hearing about them through a press conference.

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