Cooper Seeks Business Aid, Food Help For Day-Care Children

Cooper Seeks Business Aid, Food Help For Day-Care Children

8:59am Mar 17, 2020
Gov. Roy Cooper declared a state of emergency for North Carolina after five more cases of COVID-19 were announced Monday, March 10. Screenshot courtesy of the NC Department of Public Safety.

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper has asked the federal government’s small business agency to declare an emergency because of the coronavirus so merchants and firms can access low-interest loans.

Cooper’s request to the Small Business Administration announced Monday comes as the state enters the first full week of banned large gatherings and closed public schools statewide.

Restaurants, bars, and retailers can remain open under his latest executive order, but guidance from state health officials discourage crowds at them, and additional suggestions for residents to stay close to home are taking their toll on many businesses.

North Carolina “is currently sustaining severe economic impacts from this pandemic,” Cooper wrote last week to a regional SBA director. “These economic injuries and losses to businesses have just begun and will continue through this crisis.”

Cooper issued an executive order Saturday that closed public schools at least through March 30 and made violations of assemblies of more than 100 people a misdemeanor.

The order won’t be changed for now even with updated guidance late Sunday from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that gatherings of at least 50 people should be canceled or postponed, State Health Director Elizabeth Tilson said Monday. North Carolina health officials are now describing the CDC threshold as a recommendation.

“This is a rapidly evolving situation and we’ll continue to reassess,” Tilson told reporters. “And if further action is needed, then the governor has been clear that he will take” it, she said. President Donald Trump's administration went even further Monday, recommending the public avoid gatherings larger than 10 people.

Most people who come down with the disease have relatively mild symptoms, but it can be deadly for some, especially the elderly and those with underlying health problems. Most people infected with the virus recover in a matter of weeks.

The state Department of Health and Human Services counted 33 people from North Carolina testing positive for the COVID-19 virus as of Monday. Tilson said one of them is hospitalized. Wake County continues to have the most cases at 14. Campbell University announced on Monday that a student on its Buies Creek campus has tested positive and is under quarantine.

The worldwide outbreak has sickened more than 179,000 people and killed more than 7,000.

All University of North Carolina system campuses and private colleges have suspended classes and are moving to online learning. Most activities in the state district and superior courts have been postponed for 30 days. There are exceptions to judicial activity, but evictions and foreclosures are among the transactions being delayed. The state ferry system on Monday asked route passengers to remain in the vehicles they drove onto the boats to reduce spread of the virus.

As for schools, local education leaders scrambled to coordinate meals for children who receive free or reduced-price lunches. The Wake County system — the state's largest — announced more than two dozen food distributions will be open weekdays starting Tuesday.

During a conference call by Trump and the nation's governors, Cooper asked about a federal waiver the state has requested for food for children where their daycare centers have closed, according to Cooper's office.

Tilson said the state’s testing capability for the virus continues to grow, with 329 tests completed at the state public health laboratory and supplies for 1,300 additional tests.

“North Carolina’s in incredibly good shape I think in terms of our planning and preparedness,” Tilson said, "but we’ll continue to get better and better.”

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