Editor’s note: Soon after posting this news story, this followed: Cooper orders public schools closed for two weeks, bans gatherings of 100 or more
By Peter Vankevich
Amidst the escalating health crisis surrounding COVID-19, Hyde county schools–Ocracoke and Mattamuskeet–will not close, at least for now, according to Superintendent of Hyde County Schools Stephen Basnight in an announcement on Friday.
But he outlined major steps the district is taking to help protect the students and staff, such as encouraging frequent hand washing and restricting access to school buildings, .
Based on recommendations issued Friday by Gov. Roy Cooper, the Centers for Disease Control, state and local health departments, effective immediately, Hyde County Schools has implemented the following:
➢ Limit visitor access to schools. Visitors, including parents or guardians, will not be allowed access to cafeterias, hallways, restrooms or other areas of the school buildings other than the front office.
➢ Eliminate all non-essential out-of-district travel for students and staff.
➢ Cancel all school field trips through April 6.
➢ No longer hold school assemblies or large group gatherings and will practice social distancing to the highest degree possible.
These protocols will be in effect until at least April 6.
Included in the announcement, Basnight said students and staff should stay home if they are sick and two electrostatic disinfectant sprayer systems designed to kill a series of viruses, including COVID-19, have been ordered.
The schools have also prepared a virtual learning plan that would be implemented if the campuses are shut down.
Ocracoke’s County Commissioner Tom Pahl said today he has been part of several phone conferences to gather information and help formulate a unified response to the COVID-19 outbreak.
“The county staff is working on developing policy and implementing policies that are directed to the operation of our county government as well as recommendations to the people in Hyde County about what we should be doing now and and what we might be expecting in a couple of weeks, “ Pahl said
He said that Luana Gibbs, Hyde County health director, will be on the agenda of the OCBA meeting at 6 p.m. Wednesday (March 18) in the Community Center.
“We’ve discussed the wisdom of even holding that meeting, “ he said. “We think it’s okay. It’s fewer than 100 people and I think it’s actually an important meeting because it’ll be a chance for people to ask some questions and put some ideas out there and share their concerns.”
He said the meeting will be set up as a webcast with the link to be determined.
“(This is) so that anybody who is not comfortable going to a public meeting can still sit in on the meeting by a computer link,” Pahl said.
As of this morning, there are now 24 cases in North Carolina of people testing positive for COVID-19. Most of them are in the Triangle area, according to the Raleigh News&Observer. There have not been any reported cases in in Hyde or Dare counties.
The fear of spreading the virus has caused thousands of public gatherings and events throughout the entire country to be canceled or postponed, including the canceling the NCAA basketball tournament, postponing the 2020 Masters golf tournament and the Major League Baseball season opening.
Many colleges and universities are closing their campuses and resorting to online classes, and workers in numerous governmental and private sectors are working from home.