Waiters wearing masks? Every other pew empty at church? NC congressman pitches possible ideas for reopening the state

Wednesday, April 15, 2020
NC congressman pitches possible ideas for reopening the state
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One North Carolina congressman is pitching his own ideas for how the state could reopen more quickly, while protecting the most vulnerable.

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- He only won his special election this past September, and the sad irony is Dr. Greg Murphy now doesn't get to spend much time on Capitol Hill.

Still, the Greenville urologist-turned-Republican-congressman has emerged as a key voice on the novel coronavirus and its disease, COVID-19, in Washington and in Raleigh. Murphy, who said he advised Governor Roy Cooper on his Stay-At-Home order, maintains that he fully supports the measures currently in place and does not agree with calls for a complete reopening of the state's economy.

On the contrary, he said, there must be a "measured" approach until there's a vaccine, medication to treat the disease and point-of-care testing.

"We're not at a perfect spot and we're not exactly where we need to be," Murphy said. "But we're in a spot now where we can loosen restrictions on a very defined population."

That defined population, according to Murphy, is North Carolina's population of people under age 65 and without lingering health issues, such as diabetes or heart disease.

"That's no different than the hordes going out to Lowe's," he quipped.

THE LATEST: COVID-19 updates in North Carolina

Specifically, here are the ideas Murphy is pitched--not as formal proposals but rather as what he calls "conversation starters":

Barbershops &Salons

  • Staggered appointments
  • Work stations at least six feet apart
  • Stylists, customers wear masks and gloves


  • Limit seating to four per table
  • Empty tables between each seated table
  • All waitstaff wear masks and gloves


  • Limit groups to four people
  • Maintain social distance of at least six feet between individuals/groups


  • Staggered seating in every other pew
  • More services per day to keep attendance down
  • Online worship for seniors

One industry Murphy said should not reopen just yet is fitness.

"Gyms are a little different, people are sweating, they're giving off a lot of germs," Murphy said. "Maybe it's something we need to look at later."

Physical protections, though, are not the same as healing emotional wounds--something Murphy said businesses should take into account.

"Not only is it going to take a couple years for businesses to open back up, but for consumer confidence to go back up again for someone to say, 'It's OK for me to go out and go to that store and buy something,'" Murphy said.

Stacey Horowitz, one of the owners of Margaux's Restaurant in Raleigh, agreed with that sentiment.

"I don't expect a full house the first day we reopen," she said. "I also don't think people are going to like having waiters wearing masks and trying to explain the menu."

As for helping restore her own business, Horowitz said her team understands the need to keep everyone safe but worries some degree of social distancing--as necessary and important as it is--will continue to hurt the bottom line.

"When you're talking about being able to do a quarter of your business, if you're lucky, and still have to pay rent, pay your suppliers and vendors, and pay overhead, and add in now you have to take temperature everyday and you need someone to do that, you just wonder if it's worth it to stay open," Horowitz said.

Murphy is up front about not knowing all the answers or solutions, but said he wants everyone to know he's listening to questions and concerns.

"I think a year from now our society will be a lot better than where it is right now," he said. "This has taught me a great deal about being patient and trying to work through this in a calm, unemotional, data-driven manner."

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