In an effort to curb the spread of the coronavirus, Chief Justice of the N.C. Supreme Court Cheri Beasley on Friday directed local courts to postpone most district and superior court cases for 30 days effective Monday.
Cases will be rescheduled except for emergency orders, trials for which a jury is already empaneled and hearings required for due process.
The response to the new coronavirus, or COVID-19, pandemic also now includes emergency declarations at the federal, state and local levels.
On Friday, President Donald Trump declared a national emergency over the coronavirus to release up to $50 billion in federal funds to help state and local government officials respond.
The administration and Congress also struck a deal Friday evening on coronavirus response legislation to provide aid for affected workers and businesses.
U.S. Rep. David Price, D-Chapel Hill, called for quick passage of a House-backed plan.
“COVID-19 is here in the United States, and a national emergency declaration was overdue, but I’m encouraged the president took this step,” Price said in a statement after Trump’s announcement. “The president bungled the early rollout of testing, and we’re just now building up capacity – we are behind the curve.”
Gov. Roy Cooper on Tuesday declared a state of emergency declaration in North Carolina, and the list of cities and counties issuing their own declarations continues to grow. The official declarations trigger additional powers to waive restrictions and marshal resources.
The decisions follow an unprecedented wave of closures and cancellations of public gatherings, all aimed at slowing the spread of the virus.
As of Friday evening, the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services listed the official count of coronavirus cases in the state as 15, but with not enough tests, officials are unsure what the actual count could be.
NCDHHS Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen during an update Friday continued to urge caution for people who might be sick.
“We’re asking folks to use their best judgment and to be vigilant,” she said. “If you have a fever, if you have a cough, make sure that you are staying home.”
She reiterated that hand-washing and wiping down surfaces are highly effective in stopping the spread of the disease.
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All three branches of state government took steps to cut back on public events this week.
State House Speaker Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, announced Thursday that all legislative hearings would be rescheduled with the earliest potential restart on April 1. Legislative staff members are being asked to work from home if possible.
Moore said that for now the plan is still for the General Assembly to reconvene for the short session on April 24. He said the legislature would be ready to step in with additional funds or action if needed.
“Lawmakers stand ready to approve robust policy and budgetary action to support frontline health care professionals as may become necessary,” Moore said.
Meanwhile, most public hearings and information meetings planned by state government departments and agencies have been canceled or rescheduled.
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