Governor Cooper announced today that he was signing an executive order closing all schools for two weeks and banning any gatherings of 100 people or more for a month in response to concerns about the coronavirus. 

His decision came shortly after the Wake County Public School System reversed course and decided to close after a teacher became the 24th person in North Carolina (and the 10th in Wake) to test positive for COVID-19. On Thursday, Cooper had advised against large gatherings but did not ban them, and he had recommended against preemptively closing schools. 

Locally, Durham Public Schools, Orange County Schools, and the Chapel Hill-Carrboro School District had already decided to close. 

Cooper’s order appears to apply to concerts, religious services, conferences, theater performances, even movie screenings that draw more than 100 people, but it does not apply retail malls, workplaces, factories, or—notably—to restaurants and bars, places where people often congregate in close proximity to one another.    

Italy and France, countries ravaged by the coronavirus, have forced restaurants and bars—as well as most non-essential businesses—to close in an effort to slow its spread.

At a press conference on Saturday, The News & Observer reported, Cooper acknowledged that the decision to close schools would be difficult for working parents and children who get meals at school. “We are working on efforts to deal with these challenges,” he said. 

As of Saturday, North Carolina had 24 confirmed or presumptive coronavirus cases but no fatalities. The U.S. had nearly 1,700 confirmed or presumptive cases and at least 41 deaths. Those numbers, however, likely vastly underestimate the real impact of the virus, on account of the federal government’s failure to set up an adequate testing regime. 

The State Laboratory of Public Health has tested only 160 people, and it has supplies to test just 560 more, according to its website. Those numbers do not include tests at universities and commercial labs. It isn’t clear how many people have received tests at universities or commercial labs—nor is it clear how many people have sought tests but have been unable to obtain them.