Gov. Roy Cooper is delaying until next week decisions about when to reopen schools and whether to extend limits on reopening certain businesses.

Cooper said during a press conference Thursday that his decisions will rely on conversations with educators, health officials and businesses. Cooper previously extended the Phase 2 reopening limitations through July 17.

Cooper said he believes his administration's plans will require in-person and remote learning for students.

Dr. Mandy Cohen, the state's health secretary, said she is aware some teachers may choose not to be in the classroom for the 2020-21 school year, whether out of fear for their own health, or potentially exposing family members who are at home.

She said the limited number of school outbreaks to date have been among teachers who were in close proximity to each other without face coverings while preparing their classrooms.

Cohen said there are no current plans to conduct daily testing of students and educators, citing the ongoing effort to encourage face masks, hand washing and social distancing.

On Tuesday, the state House used the gut-and-replace strategy with Senate Bill 374 to insert language that would give local boards of education the flexibility to remotely conduct the first five days of the 2020-21 school year. The state Board of Education would have to approve each request.

The bill passed the House by a 102-0 vote Tuesday, but Senate Republican leadership declined to address it. That means the first five school days are to be attended in-person. After that, local education boards can activate remote learning.

The state had its second-highest daily case total of 2,039, while hospitalizations are a record high of 1,034 as of noon Thursday. The statewide death total is at 1,461, up 20 from Wednesday.

75 more Forsyth cases

The Forsyth County Department of Public Health reported that COVID-19 cases continued to surge with 75 new cases Wednesday, but no new coronavirus-related deaths. The case total was 3,525 as of 12:30 p.m. Thursday.

Forsyth's highest daily case increase remains 162 on June 1.

Forsyth health officials report 2,170 individuals who have recovered, along with 37 deaths, for an active case count of 1,318.

There have been at least 11,501 cases of COVID-19 in the 14-county Triad and Northwest North Carolina region, with 251 reported deaths.

Public health officials list Forsyth among eight counties in the state running the greatest risk of rapid spread of the virus.

DHHS said Thursday it plans to hire up to 250 community health workers to work in historically underserved areas with high COVID-19 caseloads. The initiative is slated to launch in August.

The community health workers would be responsible for connecting North Carolinians to medical and social support resources, including diagnostic testing, primary care, case management, nutrition assistance and mental health services.

There have been at least 13,206 cases in the 14-county Triad and Northwest North Carolina region with 252 reported deaths.

Hospitalizations have been above 800 for 24 consecutive days in North Carolina.

Cohen said that officials with the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services are communicating daily with hospitals across the state.

However, Cohen said there are no current plans to ask hospitals to limit or halt elective surgeries to save beds for COVID-19 patients. Most hospitals, including those in the Triad, did so from mid-March to early to mid May.



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