NORTH CAROLINA — Last week Governor Roy Cooper issued a state of emergency for North Carolina. On Saturday, he issued yet another executive order prohibiting large gatherings and the closure of schools across the state.
Executive order 117 follows order 116 (the state of emergency declaration) and is directly aimed at stopping the spread of Covid-19, the illness caused by the new coronavirus.
The order does two main things, the prohibition of mass gatherings and the closure of schools.
The first part of the order, the prohibition of mass gatherings, defines a mass gathering as, “Any event or convening that brings together more than 100 persons in a single room or single space at the same time, such as an auditorium, stadium, arena, large conference room, meeting hall, theater, or any other confined indoor or outdoor space. This includes parades, fairs, and festivals.”
However, there has been some confusion as to what does and does not apply to the order.
“A mass gathering does not include normal operations at airports, bus and train stations, medical facilities, libraries, shopping malls and center, or other spaces where more than 100 persons are gathered. It also does not include office environments, restaurants, factories, grocery stores, or other retail establishments,” the order continues. The order also appears to not apply to private religious gatherings. While some local churches, synagogues, and mosques have chosen to suspend or live-stream services, they are not banned under state law.
So while things like the St. Patrick’s Day festivities are canceled in Wilmington, grocery stores and restaurants are still open to the public.
Any violation of the section of the order can be punished as a class II misdemeanor.
School closures are the second main part of the order and is a bit more cut and dry. The order reads, “… I hereby direct that all public schools close for students effective Monday, March 16, 2020, until March 30, 2020, unless extended beyond that date.”
Of course, this poses new problems for parents and families.
The order also directs the state board of education, the North Carolina Department Health and Human Services, and the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction to work together to ‘implement measures to provide for the health, nutrition, safety, educational needs and well-being of children during the school closure period.
Finally, the order also recommends residents practice ‘social distancing’ by maintaining distance from others, at least six feet and practicing proper hygiene.
The order will remain in effect for 30 days or until the Governor rescinds it.