Restaurants welcome customers as North Carolina enters Phase 2 of reoepning

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Here are the latest updates about COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, in North Carolina.

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6:30 p.m.
In an addendum to his safer at home order, Gov. Roy Cooper clarified that breweries, wineries and distilleries can open during Phase 2 on North Carolina's reopening plan.

Bars and nightclubs, however, must stay closed.

5:10 p.m.
As of Thursday evening, Wake County reports 14 new cases of COVID-19, raising the county total to 1,393.

5:00 p.m.
North Carolina has officially entered Phase 2 of reopening, meaning restaurants, salons, barbershops, tattoo parlors and other businesses are allowed to reopen.

Several North Carolina restaurants wasted no time, seating guests on the patio for their first sit-down dining experience since mid-March.

WATCH: Restaurants, salons welcome guests as Phase 2 begins
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Restaurants and salons were allowed to reopen at 5 p.m.



3:00 p.m.
The City of Raleigh announced that parking meeters will require payments starting June 1.

Early in the COVID-19 outbreak, the city made all metered spaces free. However, as more Raleigh businesses open, city officials said meters in Glenwood South and downtown Raleigh will come back online. Metered spaces on Hillsborough Street will remain free until later this summer.

In a news release, city officials said touch pads will be regularly sanitized. Drivers can pay for parking without touching the meter by using the Passport app on their smart phones.

"The safety of our customers and staff is our primary focus," said Parking Manager Matthew Currier in a written statement. "We are taking all measures available to us to protect ourselves and our customers as we begin a measured return to business."

2:00 p.m.
During a news conference, Gov. Roy Cooper announced a new training program designed to educate businesses opening in Phase 2 about the public health and safety steps they can take to keep employees and customers safe.

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The Count on Me NC program is a collaboration between the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, the North Carolina State University Extension school, Visit NC and the North Carolina Restaurant and Lodging Association. Cooper said more than 3,500 people representing more than 1,800 businesses have completed the training so far. Businesses that finish the training will be given a sign to put in their window and a logo for their website.

Cooper said the Count on Me NC program was, as far as he was aware, one of the first of its kind in the country. "I'm proud North Carolina is leading the way on safety and best practices."

With Memorial Day weekend approaching quickly and restrictions loosening in just three hours, Cooper urged North Carolinians to take the guidelines still in place seriously.

"I want you to have a great time, but continue using caution," Cooper said, advising residents to wear face coverings, keep six feet apart, wash their hands frequently, and keep gatherings below 10 people when indoors and below 25 when outdoors. "This is how. we protect ourselves and particularly our family and neighbors."

When asked about legal challenges--including lawsuits by churches, salons and other businesses--to his safer-at-home order, Cooper said "It would be irresponsible to remove restrictions all at once. Clearly, that's a situation that could result in a massive spike in COVID-19."

Cooper commended the efforts of North Carolinians to limit the spread of the virus and flatten the curve, keeping the state's hospitals from being overwhelmed.

"We believe that this is a smart way to move forward to protect the health of North Carolinians while also trying to boost our economy," Cooper said.

12:30 p.m.
In a news release, Durham County officials clarified the modified county stay-at-home order that will go into effect at 5 p.m. For more information about that order, click here.

11 a.m.
North Carolina has reported an additional 758 positive cases of COVID-19 on Friday morning. 12 more deaths were reported and 12,579 tests were administered. The number of coronavirus-related hospitalizations decreased by 10.

The state's totals going back to mid-March now sit at:

  • 21,618 confirmed cases
  • 728 deaths
  • 303,224 completed tests
  • 568 hospitalizations


While the number of positive COVID-19 cases are increasing, the number of tests completed are increasing as well.

During the first week of the outbreak, more than 10 percent of the tests completed were coming back positive. However, the state was not conducting very many tests--and the tests that were being done were on patients already suspected of having the virus.

Now, with the state completing more than 5,000 tests a day, the percent of positive cases has decreased.

Two weeks ago 8 percent of the tests completed were positive. A week ago that number was down to 7 percent. According to NCDHHS website, the percent for Thursday was up to 9 percent.

HOW ARE WE DOING?
As the state looks to go through the phases of reopening, officials are looking to meet certain benchmarks.
Here's how we're doing on some of those:
Decrease in percent of positive tests? On Thursday, 9% of completed tests were positive.
Hospitalizations decreasing? 10 fewer people were reported to be hospitalized with symptoms related to COVID-19 in the past 24 hours. The number of total hospitalizations has remained roughly level, around 500 people.

Testing capacity? The state did meet its goal in the last 24 hours with over 12,000 tests.
Contract tracers? The state still only has 250 and is working to double this workforce to 500.
PPE Supplies? While the state reports enough procedure masks, face shields, N95 masks and gloves to cover at least 30 days, the state still has a 0-day supply of surgical gowns. Emergency Management Director Mike Sprayberry has repeatedly said gowns are the hardest piece of protective equipment to acquire nationwide, and the state is working hard to get more.

In one-on-one interview with ABC11, Gov. Cooper explains why North Carolina is not ready to reopen completely
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Gov. Roy Cooper explained why North Carolina isn't ready to fully reopen just yet.



10:35 a.m.
North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) is now distributing a one-time payment to families enrolled in the Work First Cash Assistance program.

The payments are for families enrolled in the program who also have at least one child.

"So many North Carolina families are in need right now, with many people out of work or seeing a reduction in working hours," NCDHHS Secretary Dr Mandy Cohen said. "This one-time payment will provide thousands of our most economically vulnerable families with extra financial support to help pay for basic necessities."

The one-time payment is $265 per child.

Families will begin receiving the extra money on their Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) card. Other families may receive the money as a direct deposit Monday.

10:30 a.m.
More than 930,000 people have filed for unemployment in North Carolina since March 15.

The Department of Employment Security said another 14,061 claims were filed Thursday. Some of those claims may be duplicate claims from people who have already applied.

The total number of claims filed is 1,266,894.

The state said it has paid out $2,367,858,741 to 573,736 people, meaning approximately 62% of applicants have received money.

9:00 a.m.
Durham public swimming pools will not open this summer.

Durham Parks and Recreation said it made the decision after reviewing guidelines from federal, state and local health officials.

"The safety of our participants and staff is our number one priority. In addition, we are dedicated to providing services that are equitable for everyone. The logistical challenges of being able to provide these services safely would severely limit the number of our residents who would be able to access these services. While this was a difficult decision, we have determined that the challenges described above outweigh the benefit to the few that we would be able to safely serve."

Guidelines in Phase 2 of Gov. Roy Cooper's plan to reopen the state does allow public pools to reopen at 50% capacity starting at 5 p.m. Friday, May 22.

Here's what can open, what must stay closed in Phase 2


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Here's what will reopen in Phase 2 and what is required to stay closed as part of Gov. Cooper's executive order.



FRIDAY MORNING STORYLINES

A day after the state reported North Carolina exceeded 20,000 reported cases of coronavirus, North Carolina is marching forward with the reopening process. Phase 2 begins Friday at 5 p.m., meaning restaurants, barbershops and hair salons will be open again for the first time in months.

Restaurants will have to follow strict guidelines and reduced capacities in Phase 2. Pools can also reopen, but only at 50 percent capacity and only with 10 people in the water per every 1,000 square feet.

Bars were excluded from reopening in Phase 2. Gyms and fitness centers will also not be open as part of Phase 2.

The governor said the stay-at-home order will be lifted but a "safer-at-home" recommendation will go into effect. Phase 3 cannot begin until 4 to 6 weeks after the start of Phase 2, according to the state.

Gov. Cooper will speak Friday at 2 p.m. with an update on the state's response. ABC11 will stream the briefing on its website and Facebook page.

Durham Mayor Steve Schewel said the Bull City will continue its stay-at-home order through at least June 1--meaning the city will not allow restaurants, salons or pools to open yet. Schewel is expected to elaborate on the city's plan sometime Friday.

Charlotte Motor Speedway will host the Coca-Cola 600 on Sunday without fans. The race is going forward for the 60th consecutive year.

THURSDAY
7:25 p.m.
Durham County officials report 48 new cases of COVID-19 Thursday evening, raising the county total to 1,169.

Wake County also reports 1,379 total cases of COVID-19, the county is up 45 new cases from Wednesday.

3:15 p.m.
Halifax County said it is aware of 811 confirmed tests performed on residents. Of those, 143 have tested positive for COVID-19. One person has died. A total of 91 patients are considered recovered.

2:30 p.m.
During a news conference, Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen clarified the guidelines around face coverings in phase 2 of the state's reopening plan. For the general public, Cohen said face coverings are not required, but are strongly recommended.

"Face coverings protect your loved ones and your neighbors," Cohen said.

However, employees at salons, barbershops, tattoo parlors and other personal care businesses must wear face coverings. Customers are encouraged to do the same.

Cohen also addressed why gyms, fitness centers, bars and breweries will not be allowed to open during phase two, clarifying that all activities allowed in phase 2 are higher risk activities, but the state wanted to take a modest approach and allow a few things at a time instead of everything at once.

For gyms in particular, Cohen said the main concern is that people breathe harder when working out--and are less likely to wear a mask when exercising--and could expel the virus more forcefully.
Cohen said the best way North Carolinians can ensure the state will reopen more quickly is for eveyone to practice their three w's: wearing a face covering, waiting six feet apart and washing hands frequently.

"If we do all of those things and we all do this together, that's what's going to get us through," Cohen said.

2 p.m.
RDU announced on Monday new measures aimed at protecting travelers amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The new measures will include:
  • More frequent cleaning and disinfecting of ParkRDU shuttle buses and common areas including bathrooms and high-touch surfaces such as ticket counters and kiosks
  • More detailed cleaning and disinfecting using EPA-approved products for surfaces such as hand rails and underneath seats
  • Hand sanitizing stations throughout the terminals with more on the way
  • Digital signage and intercom announcements promoting adherence to public health best practices to help prevent the spread of viruses like COVID-19
  • New physical and digital signage to remind passengers to maintain six feet of distance, wear a face covering and practice good hygiene
  • New stanchion signage in the ticket lobby, boarding queues and on the concourse to encourage physical distancing and one-way directional flow
  • Sneeze guards in common areas including ticket counters, information desks, gate counters and baggage service offices
  • Seat covers in gate waiting areas and floor decals in baggage claim that show appropriate physical distancing


RDU is also conducting a capacity analysis in the terminals to determine what space constraints may result from physical distancing in areas like security checkpoints. Many of the new measures are visible now, with the rest expected to be in place by the end of June.

Many of RDU's airline partners now require passengers to wear face coverings during their flight. Masks are available for sale in post-security stores in Terminal 2.

Beginning June 1, Frontier will implement temperature screenings for all passengers and airline employees prior to boarding flights. Anyone with a temperature of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or higher will be denied boarding.

1:30 p.m.
Sampson County reported 12 new cases which brings the total to 314 positive cases of COVID-19 countywide.

Health officials said the totals this week reflect the results of the mass testing event that was held this past Saturday. Some test results are still pending.

1:05 p.m.
The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services is reporting its first case of Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C) associated with COVID-19.

While children generally experience mild symptoms with COVID-19, recently a possible link has been found between COVID-19 and a serious inflammatory disease in some children and teenagers who have current or recent infections, the NCDHHS said. The first reports of this syndrome came from the United Kingdom in late April. Cases in the United States were first reported in New York City in early May.

Read more about that here.

11:45 a.m.
UNC and NC State University both announced that the fall 2020 semester will start nine days earlier than originally planned, on August 10, and end before Thanksgiving break.
Both UNC Chancellor Kevin Guskiewiez and NCSU Chancellor Randy Woodson cited public health concerns about a potential second wave of COVID-19 in the late fall or early winter.

Click here to read more.

11 a.m.
The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services initially reporting 788 more COVID-19 cases and 14 more deaths in the state, but later revised those numbers to 698 more cases.

That brings the total to 20,860 cases and 716 deaths.

In the last 24 hours, 13,042 tests were completed, which is significantly higher than the average over the last couple of weeks.

The number of hospitalizations in the state rose slightly by 24 to 578 total.

On Wednesday, Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen said that while North Carolina is in a good spot with many of its key indicators, the continued increase of daily cases is concerning.

"The virus is here in our communities across the state," Cohen said. "I would have liked to see this trend starting to level, but it has not done that."

COVID-like syndromic ER visits--an early indicator of case load in the state--has been steadily decreasing.

The percentage of positive tests out of total tests was decreasing and remains level. Though hospitalizations have spiked in recent days, they are mostly level and Cohen said the state has the capacity to treat more patients should cases spike.
THURSDAY MORNING STORYLINES

North Carolina will be making its much-anticipated move into Phase 2 of reopening the state on Friday. The phase is a step toward normalcy for the state's economy, but doesn't open everything and retains several health and safety measures from Phase 1.

On Wednesday, Gov. Roy Cooper signed a new Executive Order that lifts the stay-at-home order, but proposes a "Safer-At-Home" plan. Gyms, health clubs, bars and nightclubs must remain closed under the new order. Gov. Cooper explained that recent data and metrics compelled them to "back off" further lifting restrictions.

New guidance provided by state officials requires restaurants to operate at 50 percent capacity and have all staff wear masks or face coverings, among other mandates and recommendations. Phase 2 is scheduled to begin Friday at 5 p.m.

Raleigh-Durham International Airport will announce changes to protect passengers Thursday morning. A release from the Raleigh-Durham Airport Authority said the new measures are intended to protect passengers and prevent sicknesses from spreading. Authority president Michael Landguth will also talk about the airline industry's expectations for recovering from loss of business from the pandemic.

In Wilkesboro, 570 workers at a Tyson Foods poultry plant tested positive for COVID-19. The majority of the impacted workers did not show symptoms. In April, Sampson County health officials found a COVID-19 outbreak at Smithfield Packing Company in Clinton. There have also been coronavirus-related complaints at a Smithfield Foods Plant in Tar Heel.

Triangle Town Center mall will reopen on Thursday. The Raleigh mall will be open Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. until 7 p.m. and Sunday from noon until 6 p.m.

There have been more than 1.5 million coronavirus cases across the U.S. with 93,439 coronavirus-related deaths. The nation's jobless claims have hit nearly 38 million since mid-March.
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