Gov. Roy Cooper on Monday ordered additional categories of public places closed, lowered the limit for the number of people at gatherings to 50 and extending the closing of public schools for in-person instruction through May 15 to help slow the spread of the coronavirus.

No confirmed cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, had been reported for Wilkes County as of Monday afternoon. Wilkes Health Director Rachel Willard said then that of 26 nasal swabs submitted by the Wilkes Health Department for testing, results weren’t back for 13. These numbers don’t include samples submitted by Wilkes Medical Center and private physicians.

At 11 a.m. Monday, the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services announced that the state had 297 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in 46 counties out of 8,438 completed tests of samples. There were no deaths in N.C. Nationwide, there were 15,219 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 201 deaths.

Byrd: ‘We’ll start planning’

After learning Cooper’s announcement about schools Monday, Wilkes School Superintendent Mark Byrd said, “I was a bit surprised by the length of this closure and we will start planning for what this means moving forward immediately.”

Byrd added, “We will continue to make efforts to provide the best of everything for our students and staff both during this closure and beyond.”

Cooper initially announced a two-week closure of the state’s public schools starting March 16.  He announced the longer closure period and other new measures as part of continued efforts to slow the spread of the coronavirus in a press conference at 1 p.m. Monday.

Cooper said he’s asked the State Board of Education to come up with a plan for paying all of the state’s public school employees during the closure, but also said it’s up to what state lawmakers provided in the budget.

The State Board of Education voted Monday to request a federal waiver from giving the state end-of-grade and end-of-course exams. The state board will also ask the General Assembly to waive testing requirements for schools.

Other action Monday

Effective Monday, gatherings of more than 50 people in North Carolina are prohibited, down from 100. The governments of Wilkes County, Wilkesboro, North Wilkesboro and Ronda took this same action on Thursday.

In addition, Cooper ordered that the following close by 5 p.m. Wednesday, March 25: bingo parlors, bowling alleys, ice skating rinks, indoor exercise facilities (e.g. gyms, yoga studios, and martial arts facilities), health clubs, indoor pools, live performance venues, movie theaters, roller skating rinks, spas, sweepstakes lounges and video game arcades.

He also ordered that the following types of personal care and grooming businesses close by 5 p.m. Wednesday: barber shops, beauty salons, hair salons, manicure/pedicure providers, massage parlors, nail salons and tattoo parlors.

Earlier, Cooper announced that restaurants and bars could no longer serve on a sit-down basis, but that take-outs and delivery were still allowed.

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