US-NEWS-CORONAVIRUS-NC-CH

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper during a debate at WRAL studios in Raleigh, N.C., on Oct. 18, 2016. Cooper announced Tuesday he plans to order restaurants and bars closed except for takeout and delivery orders.

North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper held a press conference March 17 along with members of the North Carolina’s Coronavirus Task Force that detailed more information in regards to the executive order he announced earlier on Twitter.

The order will do five major things, including waiving the one week waiting period to apply for unemployment benefits. Cooper said at the press conference that the decision to do so was difficult to make, but wants to be prepared alongside the rest of North Carolina.

“We did not come to this decision easily. But North Carolina must keep fighting this pandemic with the right weapons,” Cooper said during the press conference.

Cooper’s newest executive order will not only waive the waiting period for applying for benefits, but it will also remove the requirement that the person must look for another job during the period of unemployment.

Cooper said in the conference that the order will also allow employees who lose their jobs or have their hours reduced due to COVID-19 related issues the ability to apply for unemployment benefits. It permits applicants to apply for benefits remotely by phone or online at North Carolina Division of Employment Security website.

Lastly, the mandate directs that employers are not responsible for benefits paid that are a direct result of the virus, according to Cooper.

“These changes are designed to lessen the hit on our economy and workers’ wallets. We know that workers want to work and businesses want to stay open. The reality is that we can’t,” Cooper said.

As Cooper mentioned in the earlier release of his executive order on Twitter, North Carolina bars and restaurants will be closed to sit down service and limited to only takeout or delivery orders starting at 5 p.m. today. It is now fully in effect until further notice.

Cooper insisted that while many establishments may want to stay open and continue to serve the public, it is the best course of action for the state in managing and reducing spread of the virus.

“I recognize this decision will cost people their jobs, so this order also brings them some relief. Today I am taking down barriers to unemployment benefits in response to this unprecedented health crisis,” Cooper said.

After Cooper’s statements, secretary for the Department of Health and Human Services, Mandy Cohen, went over the different recommendations concerning crowd sizes. From the President of the United States, Donald Trump, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the current executive order, all have different numbers that limit crowd sizes.

She said that President Trump’s current recommendation is for gatherings to not exceed 10 people for the next 15 days, while the CDC is suggesting that no more than 50 people should gather in one place for the next eight weeks.

The current executive order mandates gatherings should not exceed 100 people, and Cohen stated that is what will be enforced by law enforcement.

“Our goal is to slow the spread of the infection so fewer people get sick at the same time and we don’t overwhelm our medical system resources,” Cohen said at the conference.

She went on to urge that people should practice social distancing and use good judgement. Washing your hands, staying six feet away from others when possible and using proper respiratory etiquette such as coughing into one’s elbow are all ways to prevent the spread of the virus that Cohen listed.

Cohen also recommended that individuals who are higher-risk over the age of 65 or get chronic diseases or weakened immune systems be especially vigilant.

“As of this morning we have 40 positive cases among 16 counties in North Carolina,” Cohen said.

She explained that over 1100 tests have been completed in the state and thousands of more samples have been collected and are in laboratories across the state.

Finally, the secretary for the Department of Public Safety, Erik Hooks, came to the podium and first praised the leadership of the governor and the State Emergency Response Team partnering together to be prepared. Hooks then urged citizens to follow health suggestions and only use reliable sources during this time.

“Please follow the health and safety advice you have been getting from Dr. Cohen. Please only lean on trusted sites for information, such as the Department of Health and Human services and the CDC. I cannot stress this enough,” Hooks said.

Law enforcement, national guard and highway patrol have been actively engaged in planning, operations and future operations in relation to the virus, according to Hooks.

Michael Sprayberry, the director of Emergency Management, is another member of the Task Force who was present at the press briefing, but did not speak.

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