North Carolina will move into Phase 2 on Friday; Salons, restaurants can reopen but gyms must stay closed

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Saturday, May 23, 2020
Gov. Cooper announces North Carolina will move into Phase 2 on Friday
Gov. Cooper announces North Carolina will move into Phase 2 on Friday

RALEIGH (WTVD) -- Governor Roy Cooper on Wednesday announced another step toward North Carolina's reopening plan and signed a new Executive Order easing on such businesses restrictions on restaurants and salons.

"Last month, we laid out a phased approach to easing restrictions in our state that relied on data science and facts," Cooper said. "Today we're announcing another gradual and cautious step while still keeping important health and safety measures in place."

Officially, Phase 2 will begin Friday at 5 p.m.

The Stay-At-Home order will be lifted but a "Safer-At-Home" recommendation will go into effect.

New guidance provided by state officials require restaurants to operate at 50 percent capacity and have all staff wear masks or face coverings, among other mandates and recommendations.

Restaurants receive guidelines to protect customers, employees from COVID-19 during Phase 2 of reopening

Personal care businesses, such as salons and barbershops, must also operate at 50 percent capacity.

Cooper's order also stipulates that these establishments are to conduct business by appointment only; all employees and customers must wear face masks (long term care facilities are the only other industry with such statutory requirement).

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Notably, gyms and health clubs must remain closed, according to the new order. Though Cooper and health officials had expressed hope the trends in new cases and testing would allow modified openings, the Governor explained that recent data and metrics compelled them to "back off" further lifting restrictions.

Pools may reopen at 50 percent capacity.

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Phase 2, moreover, also precludes movie theaters, bowling alleys, and other indoor entertainment venues like museums from opening.

Playgrounds will also stay closed.

Other key takeaways from the Governor's news conference and Executive Order include new guidance on crowds: indoors, up to 10 people, while outdoor gatherings can reach 25.

Cooper, having faced lawsuits and the ire of some religious leaders, left out protocols for churches. For the first time, in fact, the Governor in essence gave an unofficial green light to congregations to proceed at their own peril. Though officials continue to dissuade large indoor gatherings of people sitting for extended periods of time in close proximity, religious gatherings are now exempt from any requirements.

The Governor, flanked by emergency officials and Secretary of Health & Human Services Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen, also warned that Phase 2 can be modified at any time over the next several weeks depending on data trends.

The Executive Order will last five weeks, expiring on June 26, which could mean Phase 3 could be underway in time for the July 4th holiday.