Gov. Cooper, NCDHHS releases new guidance for students, faculty in K-8 schools

North Carolina News

RALEIGH, N.C. (WGHP) — Gov. Roy Cooper said North Carolinians are in a race with COVID-19 and the delta variant, and the only way to win is to get vaccinated.

“We are very focused on trying to make sure we get our children back in school in person as normally as possible and try to avoid outbreaks in school,” he said during a press conference on Wednesday.

There is now new guidance for students and faculty in K-8 schools. Everyone, whether they’re vaccinated or not, should be required to wear a mask indoors, Cooper said.

Cooper acknowledged the spike in COVID cases and hospitalizations and said it’s concerning.

But no strict rules were put in place.

However, there are some changes to make sure students will be kept safe while getting the most “normal” school experience possible.

“All schools from kindergarten to eighth grade should require all children and staff to wear masks indoors regardless of vaccination status,” said Dr. Mandy Cohen, secretary of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. “For 9-12th grade, schools should ensure that anyone who isn’t fully vaccinated, including students, wear a mask indoors.”

Slyvia Russell is worried about her granddaughter entering kindergarten in just one month.

“I am concerned about it because it can happen at any time to anyone,” she said. “They said even if you got the shot, you could still get COVID.”

The new Strong Schools NC Toolkit is the new handbook for schools as they return to full-time, in-person learning.

Inside is a list of requirements state health leaders have dropped, including remote learning preferences, small cohorts of students to learn with, outdoor mask-wearing, a ban on field trips, and strict quarantine rules.

“Anyone who is fully vaccinated and does not have symptoms does not have to quarantine after close contact with someone who has COVID-19,” Cohen said. “Unvaccinated students do not have to quarantine after contact if students were appropriately and consistently wearing masks.”

Parents like Vicky Maness are thrilled to send their kids back full-time, but she’s not sure how school staff is going to make sure people follow the new recommendations.

“I don’t think they can separate kids based on whether they’ve been vaccinated,” she said. “I think that could cause problems between the kids.”

NCDHHS reported only 24 percent of North Carolina kids, aged 12-17 years old, are vaccinated.

If COVID cases continue to climb, Maness still plans to keep her kids in school.

“I’m not super worried because I think in general, kids don’t have as bad of symptoms,” she said. “I know it’s a risk. I know my kids could get it and I’m not really worried still.”

Triad school district officials are just starting to go through the new information.

Leaders plan to also consult local health departments, before outlining final plans.

Earlier this week, the Randolph County School Board voted to give students and staff a choice about wearing masks.

Superintendent Stephen Gainey told FOX8 they will now review the state tool kid before finalizing any plans.

Guilford County Schools Superintendent Sharon Contreras released the following statement:

We are carefully reviewing the updated guidance from Governor Cooper and the StrongSchoolsNC Public Health Toolkit. We will take these updates into consideration as we prepare to discuss with the Board of Education and to update guidance for our schools. In the meantime, we encourage all eligible students and unvaccinated staff to get vaccinated prior to the start of the new school year.”

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