RALEIGH – The inevitable became reality on Saturday afternoon as Governor Roy Cooper signed an executive order closing all public schools in the State of North Carolina for at least two weeks in order to mitigate the spread and impact of the corona virus. In addition to closing schools, though, Cooper’s order also bans large gatherings in public venues.
From the order:
“[…] the Executive Order prohibits mass gatherings that bring together more than 100 people in a single room or space, such as an auditorium, stadium, arena, large conference room, meeting hall, theater, or other confined indoor or outdoor space, including parades, fairs and festivals. Violations of the order are punishable as a Class 2 misdemeanor.
The ban on gatherings does not include airports, bus and train stations, medical facilities, libraries, shopping malls and spaces where people may be in transit. Office environments, restaurants, factories, or retail or grocery stores are also excluded.”
Today, I’m issuing an Executive Order to stop mass gatherings of more than 100 people across the state. We issued this as guidance on Thursday, however, despite this guidance, several venues continued their events, so today’s order makes it mandatory.
— Governor Roy Cooper (@NC_Governor) March 14, 2020
Understanding that this virus, and its feared rapid spread, represents a public health risk, charging people with a crime for simply assembling with 100 of their fellow citizens strikes us as beyond the pale. Good intentions are not exactly the only prerequisite for executive actions that restrict the freedoms of citizens.
What about churches? Does this ban you from gathering at your house of worship?
Campaign events? Governor Cooper’s 2020 opponent Dan Forest can sure draw a crowd.
You can go to the shopping mall with 500 people, but you can’t have kids in school, or a neighborhood block party? There are so many wrinkles to this that it may create more angst than it solves. It also smells pretty tyrannical.
With the economy already feeling the wave of cancellations, the closure of schools is bound to increase the burden exponentially as parents struggle to find and fund childcare in order to continue working. Superintendent Mark Johnson said this is the decision they hoped to avoid, but it seems the sheer inertia of closures and the herding effect made closing schools impossible to resist. Anticipating such an order for sometime now, local school officials are preparing plans for remote learning, supplemental educational resources, as well as resources for meals that some kids rely on school for.
The surreal nature of this all keeps compounding with each passing day. It is becoming hard to tell how much of the unprecedented actions are truly warranted, and which are being taken strictly as a result of the epidemic of fear that has been washing over us in recent weeks.