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RALEIGH — Cases of COVID-19 continue to spread through North Carolina, causing several towns to take more precautions, including closing more businesses.
As of Monday morning, Wake County has 52 confirmed cases of COVID-19, more than double the count on Thursday.
Five people have recovered from the illness, and 54 more are under investigation for possible infection, health officials said.
Wake County actively monitors people who may have been exposed to the virus through close contact, which is defined as being within 6 feet of someone for at least 10 minutes.
Four people have tested presumptively positive in Franklin County.
The latest official tally by the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services showed 297 positive cases of COVID-19 in the state as of Monday morning. More than 8,400 tests have been completed in the state, and no deaths have been reported.
Nationally, more than 15,000 people are infected and more than 200 have died.
On Monday, Gov. Roy Cooper closed K-12 public schools until May 15 for in-person instruction.
State and local education leaders helped Cooper make the decision by looking at recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the governor said.
Cooper said the length of school closures may change.
Schools have been shut since March 15. A two-month closure cannot be treated as a long break, state Superintendent Mark Johnson said. While students do not have to learn complicated information on their own, he recommends parents work with teachers to create a schedule that prioritizes remote learning.
“To our parents, keep your kids engaged,” Johnson said. “Work on remote learning, reading and writing a few hours each day. Get fresh air. Go to bed at a reasonable time.
“Set a schedule and stick to it.”
Cooper said he did not want to give up on this school year and hopes students will be able to return.
The state Board of Education also asked the General Assembly to waive testing requirements for schools on Monday. The federal Department of Education waived those testing requirements across the nation on Friday, which gave states the power to waive end-of-course and end-of-grade testing.
More guidance for employees is forthcoming, the board said Monday.
Wake County has put new restrictions in place to help stop the spread of COVID-19 while protecting the local healthcare system.
On Sunday, Wake County amended its state of emergency declaration to require some businesses to close, to prohibit gatherings of 50 people or more, to change visitation practices at nursing home and to restrict the use of playground equipment at local parks.
"We know these are challenging times, and we appreciate the sacrifices people are making for the benefit of our community's health,” said Chairman Greg Ford of the Wake County Board of Commissioners. “By putting these new restrictions and recommendations into effect, we're slowing the spread of the virus, protecting our residents who are most at-risk and ensuring our healthcare system has the capacity to continue serving our community."
The declaration required the following business types to close by 8 a.m. Monday and remain closed through April 30:
Any businesses that are not listed above can remain open if they don’t serve more than 50 people at a time and ensure a 6-foot distance between patrons and employees. Businesses should also screen employees and customers for fever and respiratory illness before they enter the facility, Wake County said.
Movie theatres across the state are also closing by Wednesday at 5 p.m.
Grocery stores and restaurants providing takeout and delivery will remain open, Cooper said. He asked citizens to buy only what they need to make sure resources are available for all.
Playground equipment and bathrooms at Wake County parks and open spaces are closed through April 30. Parks and preserves remain open, but visitors are asked to practice social distancing.
In Wake Forest, all park playgrounds, restrooms, athletic fields, picnic shelters and athletic courts are closed until further notice. Public bathrooms at these places are also closed. The same is true in other towns and cities, including Raleigh and Zebulon.
Parks and greenways remain open to the public. Wake Forest asks users who are exhibiting symptoms of illness to stay home. Healthy people are asked to observe social distancing of at least 6 feet and warn other users of their presence as they pass.
The county permit counter, the maps counter and the tax administration office are open to the public on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
All county regional centers, including the northern and eastern regional centers, are closed to the public.
The Veteran Services office is open to the public on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Falstaff location only. The office recommends scheduling an appointment in advance.
Wake County’s public health team encourages people to protect themselves by following these simple steps:
In Wake County, email questions to email@example.com or call 919-856-7044.
Visit http://wakegov.com/covid19 for frequently asked questions and resources in English and Spanish.
There is a listing of local food and beverage establishments providing takeout and delivery service on the town of Wake Forest’s website.
N.C. 2-1-1 is a free service that refers callers to the organizations in their local community to address specific health and human services needs. Dial 211 on a mobile phone or call 1-888-892-1162.