North Carolina to begin Phase 1 of reopening plan Friday afternoon, will allow certain businesses to reopen

Wednesday, May 6, 2020
North Carolina to begin Phase 1 of reopening plan Friday afternoon, will allow certain businesses to reopen
The order essentially eliminates the "essential business" designation, enabling many businesses to welcome customers for the first time since March.

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Gov. Roy Cooper announced that North Carolina will enter Phase One of the state's three-part plan to "reignite" its economy, allowing most stores and parks to open but keep businesses like bars and salons closed.

In a news conference Tuesday, Cooper said his new Executive Order will officially enact Phase One as of 5 p.m. on Friday, May 8.

"We have to keep taking precautions to keep people safe, but at the same time, we know we can't stay at home forever," Cooper said.

The revised stay-at-home order will allow retail stores that were previously designated as "non-essential"--including clothing, sporting goods and houseware stores--to welcome customers for the first time since March. The businesses, however, must screen their employees for symptoms, ensure capacity never exceeds 50 percent of the building's total fire capacity, maintain social distancing among shoppers, and conduct routine maintenance and sanitation.

Phase One will allow child care centers to re-enroll children whose parents are back at work or looking for work, as long as the centers follow strict cleaning requirements.

Under the new order, summer day camps will be allowed to operate, but overnight camps will not.

While Tuesday's announcement might be positive news for many North Carolinians, several key areas of the economy will remain off limits, including bars, movie theaters, bowling alleys, concert halls, salons, barbershops, gyms, and swim clubs.

Restaurants, meanwhile, will still be limited to take out and delivery service only.

Dr. Mandy Cohen, North Carolina's Secretary of Health and Human Services, encouraged all North Carolinians to wear face coverings in public, though there will be no statutory requirement. Some counties, including Durham County, do require face coverings while in public spaces.

Cohen emphasized mask-wearing as part of the "three Ws": wear masks, wait in line six feet apart and wash hands often.

In addition, North Carolinians still may not gather in groups of 10 or more people, and visitation restrictions will remain in place for nursing homes and correctional facilities.

According to Cooper, Phase One could end and transition into Phase Two as early as May 22, when the order ends. In order for the state to enter Phase Two, North Carolina must continue to see a sustained leveling or decrease in the number of new cases each day and number of hospitalizations, a decrease in the percentage of total positive tests, and a decrease in the number of emergency room visits for COVID-like symptoms. If not, the order could be extended.

Current COVID-19 Trends

Tuesday, Cohen outlined where the state is currently on those four metrics.

Gov. Roy Cooper laid out a plan to reopen North Carolina, but here's what has to happen first

First, Cohen said the number of COVID-like syndromic cases in North Carolina emergency rooms is declining again after a small peak.

Cohen also said the state was continuing to see the number of COVID-19 cases announced each day increase, but there are signs that number may be leveling out. Cohen said this was the only benchmark the state had yet to meet, but added that because the state had doubled the number of tests it is doing each day, the number of cases would logically increase.

Additionally, Cohen said the percentage of positive tests out of total completed tests is decreasing--another positive sign.

Finally, Cohen also noted the number of hospitalizations in the state continues to stay roughly level.

Cohen said more than 4,000 people applied to be contact tracers in the state, and the state supply chain for personal protective equipment is finding larger supplies of all PPE except surgical gowns.

"We're not perfect, but we're stable," Cohen said.

Reopening North Carolina

Here are more details about the three-phase plan to reopen the state's economy:

PHASE 1: revised stay-at-home order

  • Retailers and services will need to implement social distancing practices, cleaning and other protocols. Any businesses specifically closed by the executive order--including bars and restaurants for dine-in service, nail and hair salons, gyms and movie theatres--must stay closed.
  • Gatherings must not exceed 10 people
  • Parks can open, as long as people are maintaining social distancing and not gathering in groups of 10 or more people
  • Face coverings are recommended in public
  • Visitor and gathering restrictions remain in place for nursing homes and other congregate living settings
  • Employers are asked to encourage employees to continue teleworking

PHASE 2: about 2-3 weeks after Phase 1

  • Lift stay-at-home order with strong encouragement for vulnerable populations to continue staying at home
  • Allow limited opening of restaurants, bars and other businesses that can follow strict safety protocols, including reduced capacity, increased cleaning measures and social distancing measures
  • Allow gathering at houses of worship and entertainment venues at reduced capacity
  • More people will be allowed at gatherings, but that number has not yet been specified
  • Face coverings will still be recommended in public
  • Public playgrounds will open
  • Restrictions on nursing home and other congregate living setting visitors and gatherings will continue

PHASE 3: about 4-6 weeks after Phase 2

  • Restrictions for vulnerable populations will be loosened, with encouragement to continue practicing social distancing
  • Increased capacity at restaurants, bars, other businesses, houses of worship and entertainment venues will be allowed, but that specific number has not been determined
  • The number of people allowed at gatherings will increase
  • Continue rigorous restrictions on nursing homes and other congregate living settings

North Carolina's original Stay-at-Home order went into effect on March 30, with an original expiration date of April 29. The Governor, however, extended that order through May 8.