Essential North Carolina business occupancy order now in effect

Updated: Apr. 12, 2020 at 4:01 PM EDT
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RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper signed an executive order that will limit traffic in stores that are currently still open during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The statewide order started at 5 p.m. on Monday, April 13.

“This should make shopping safer for customers and retail employees, and help prevent stores from becoming flashpoints of virus transmission,” Cooper said.

Cooper said stores may not have a number of people inside a store at one time that is more than 20 percent of the stated fire capacity.

“That means five people for every 1,000 square feet,” Cooper says.

Cooper is also ordering all essential stores to mark six feet of distance at places where people need to gather, especially including check-out lines.

The governor also directs each store to conduct frequent cleaning and do routine disinfection, as well as making hand sanitizer accessible, set shopping times for senior citizens and elderly and those at-risk of coronavirus.

Cooper is also telling retailers to put up shields at registers, and to designate aisles as “one way” to limit traffic.

“We know there are still reasons to leave the house, for like groceries or medicine,” Cooper said. “We want to ensure that retail stores are as safe as possible for everyone, so that no one is afraid to go out for basic necessities.”

The move comes two days after Cooper announced plans for new rules to prevent people from interacting while shopping at stores which are deemed essential and thus still open despite the active stay-at-home order aimed at slowing the coronavirus spread.

The governor has already signed several other executive orders including one to expand unemployment benefits and another which closed public schools through May 15.

Cooper said this newest order will help put “more guardrails on social distancing at essential retailers.”

Target and Walmart are among the stores limiting the number of customers inside at one time and this order falls in line to make those changes mandatory across the state.

“I know many stores have put limits on how many people can be in a store at once and this order will ensure those limits are mandatory across the state for retailers,” Cooper said.

Cooper said he expects to sign another order which would fast track child care for doctors, nurses and other health care workers.

North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen said families that need financial support for childcare – they can find the form at that they then bring to their selected childcare program.

“I am proud to share that we have created an Emergency Child Care Subsidy Program to support our essential workers. Through this new program – essential workers can get help finding childcare and get help paying for that child care,” Cohen said.

The governor said the state has received FEMA approval to set up housing alternatives such as hotels or dorm rooms for people now living in shelters who contract the virus and need to be quarantined.

“This has been a real problem for local governments and we’re glad we can help with this,” Cooper said.

Cooper also touched on his stay-at-home order – which is set to expire April 29. He said while social distancing appears to be working in slowing the spread, it is unknown if he will need to extend the order.

“We just don’t know yet,” Cooper said.

Thursday’s comments come as at least 65 deaths across the state are being blamed on COVID-19. The state has 3,651 cases in 90 counties.

All 100 of North Carolina’s counties have declared a state of emergency.

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