COVID-19 News Update: 7/16/20

July 16, 2020

Here’s a round up of COVID-19 related news for 7/16/20. See our Coronavirus Resource Guide for extensive resources and information.

North Carolina schools will open this fall

Gov. Roy Cooper has announced that North Carolina public schools will open in the fall for both in-person and remote learning with key safety precautions to protect the health of students, teachers, staff and families.

This is a modified Plan B the state previously asked schools to prepare. It is a measured approach that will allow children to attend school in person but provides important safety protocols such as fewer children in classroom, social distancing, face coverings, cleaning and more.

As a part of this plan, local school districts can provide a remote learning option for any child who chooses it. In addition, school districts will have the option of Plan C – all remote learning – if that’s best for them.

Here are the safety precautions outlined in the Strong Schools NC Public Health Toolkit.

  • Face coverings will be required for every teacher, staff member and student from kindergarten through high school. The state will provide at least five reusable face coverings for every student, teacher and staff member.
  • Schools will be required to limit the total number of people in buildings so that 6 feet of distancing is possible. Districts and schools can use a plan that works for them – whether it’s alternating days or weeks or some other strategy.
  • Symptom screenings, including temperature checks, will take place daily
  • Schools must create a way to isolate students who have symptoms
  • Schedules must allow time for frequent hand washing and schools will regularly clean classrooms, bathrooms, buses and equipment.
  • Teachers will work to limit sharing of personal items and classroom materials.
  • Nonessential visitors and activities involving outside organizations will be limited.
  • Schools will discontinue the use of self-service food or beverage distribution.

Phase 2 extended to August 7th, 2020

North Carolina will continue to stay paused in Safer at Home Phase 2 when the governor’s current executive order expires on Friday, July 17. The order will be extended for three weeks, until Friday, August 7th.

The governor and public health officials remain guided by science, data and facts in making decisions regarding COVID-19. Since moving into Phase 2 on May 22, 2020, several key metrics have been trending in a concerning direction:

  • North Carolina’s daily number of positive COVID-19 tests is continuing to increase.
  • The percentage of COVID-19 tests that are positive has remained high.
  • Emergency department visits for COVID-19 like illnesses are increasing.
  • Hospitalizations for COVID-19 continue to increase.

Read more about Phase 2 FAQs here.

Asheville and Buncombe County continue to refine their plans for school reopenings

ACS’s general plan is for K-6 students to return to school on a rotating basis, with half meeting in-person one week while the other half learns remotely. Every week, the two groups would switch. Students in seventh through 12th grade will complete all work remotely. Lessons for seventh through 12th graders will be recorded so they can be accessed outside of regular school hours. A fully virtual option is available to any student who wishes to complete all their studies from home.

Buncombe County have planned to offer rotating schedules for kindergarten through 8th grade, with half of students meeting in-person one week while the other half learns remotely. Every week, the two groups would switch. Students in ninth through 12th grade will complete all work remotely. School administrators will work with families for special circumstances such as scheduling siblings on the same rotational week.

Both school systems are expected to release more information soon.

Mission Health reports 3 days of record high COVID-19 hospitalizations this week

Through June, Mission Health has maintained an average of 15-20 daily hospitalizations due to the COVID-19. However, numbers have spiked between July 7th and 23rd, and have remained above 20 since then.

A nine-day streak of record-breaking numbers ended with a slight dip July 12 and 13. But a record was set again July 14, when the state hit 1,109 hospitalizations, and July 15, when it reached 1,142.

As of noon July 15, here have been 91,266 cases of COVID-19 in North Carolina, including 1,568 deaths.

New limited liability protections for small businesses

North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper signed into law House Bill 118 Liability Safe Harbor on July 2, 2020. The new law creates a limited legal liability for claims arising from COVID-19 for all businesses, not-for-profits, and individuals. HB 118 significantly expands the limited immunity protection that was provided by SB 704, which passed on May 2, 2020.

As businesses and industries continue to make important decisions regarding their reopening, HB 118 provides a layer of safeguard from COVID-19 opportunistic lawsuits while also promoting businesses to act responsibly. The law is “[a]n act to provide limited immunity from liability for claims based on transmission of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19).”

Per the new law, a notice of actions taken to reduce the risk of the transmission of COVID-19 for individuals present on a premise is now required. The law specifically identifies ‘reasonable notice of actions.’ Businesses are not liable for the failure of any individual to adhere to the required posted notice. This provides relief to businesses regarding liability for their customers’ actions and enforcement of patrons’ behavior.

Learn more here.