Governor: N.C. is making ‘prudent, careful, cautious steps’ in reopening process

Phase 1 begins on Friday, May 8 at 5 p.m. and remains in place until 5 p.m. on Friday, May 22.
Published: May. 8, 2020 at 11:45 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper considers Phase 1 to be a modest, cautious first step at reigniting the economy in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Phase 1, which will ease restrictions and reopen more businesses, will begin at 5 p.m. on Friday, May 8.

“We think this is a prudent, careful, cautious step that we should make,” Cooper said on Friday. “We are going to continue to rely on the evidence and data in order to make decisions on when we move on to Phase 2.”

The Phase 1 order is set to expire on May 22, but the governor says if indicators are not in the right place, Phase 1 could be extended longer than two weeks. Restrictions are being eased in a data-driven way.

The state’s “Stay At Home” order will remain in place but will be modified to allow for more reasons for people to leave home and to allow for more commercial activity.

As of Friday afternoon, North Carolina reports 13,868 COVID-19 cases and 527 deaths.

“Given the nature of the virus, it is highly contagious and deadly for some, we need to approach this easing of restrictions in a measured way,” Cooper said.

Health leaders encourage residents to wear face coverings, remain at a social distance and wash hands.

Dr. Mandy Cohen, with the NC Department of Health and Human Services, says the state is on the right track, but testing availability still needs to be increased.

The state is 15th in the country in tests completed.

Health officials are testing nearly 6,000 people per day.

North Carolina has also received secure sample collections from the federal government, which include 300,000 swabs and 240,000 viral transport media.

Plus, some counties have already started with additional testing sites.

Walmart and Walgreens opened federally supported and funded testing sites in Durham and Pitt counties.

Walmart and Harris Teeter are bringing those testing sites to Bladen, Columbus, Cumberland, Edgecombe, Guilford, Hoke, Jackson and Wilkes counties.

“While I think we are on the right track, I am not at all satisfied with where we are,” Cohen said. “We want to see more testing, especially in our under-served communities.”

Phase 1 removes the designations of essential and non-essential businesses. Retail stores can increase to 50 percent capacity as long as they implement social distancing.

The order allows people to leave home to visit open businesses and it encourages parks and trails to re-open.

Businesses that were specifically closed in the last order will remain closed such as salons, barbers, theaters, bars, gyms and pools.

Restaurants will continue to be open for takeout or delivery only. The governor says these businesses will have the opportunity to open and do more in Phase 2.

Gatherings in this order are still limited to 10 people. People will be able to socialize with friends as long as they are outdoors and are socially distanced, but the gatherings are still limited to 10 people.

In Phase 1, people are still encouraged to telework when possible. Phase 1 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.

Protests and worship services are allowed outdoors with more than 10 people if there’s social distancing​.

“Phase 1 is designed to be a limited easing of restrictions that can give people safe opportunities to socialize and boost parts of our economy while keeping safety restrictions in place. And we can only boost our economy when people have confidence in their safety,” the governer said

When people do leave home, they are reminded to wear a face covering, wait 6 feet apart from other people and wash their hands.

Below are answers to Frequently Asked Questions from the State of North Carolina:

  • Phase 1 begins on Friday, May 8 at 5 p.m. and remains in place until 5 p.m. on Friday, May 22.
  • The Stay at Home order has not been lifted. People should continue to stay at home. Executive Order No. 138 increases the number of reasons people are allowed to leave. All North Carolina residents should continue to stay at home except for the purposes outlined in the order.
  • Anyone who is feeling sick should stay home and leave the house only to seek health care or for some other necessary reason.
  • COVID-19 is a highly contagious virus, and state officials will continue to monitor key metrics. COVID-19 spreads easily from person to person, especially indoors, or if people come in close contact for more than ten minutes. All residents should continue to exercise extreme caution when in public.

Phase 1 is different than the current Stay at Home Order in the following ways:

  • Eliminates the distinction between essential and non-essential businesses;
  • Allows most retailers (with exceptions) that can comply with specific requirements to open at 50 percent capacity;
  • Allows people to leave home for non-essential goods or services;
  • Encourages state parks and trails that are closed to open;
  • Specifically allows people to gather outdoors while following social distancing guidelines with up to ten people;
  • Opens child care to working families; and
  • Encourages North Carolinians to wear cloth face coverings when outside the home in order to protect others.

The following does not change in Phase 1 from the Stay at Home Order:

  • A Stay at Home order remains in place;
  • Mass gatherings are generally limited to no more than ten people;
  • Teleworking is encouraged;
  • Social distancing, hand hygiene, and other methods to slow the spread of CVID-19 should be practiced, including staying at least six feet apart;
  • Restaurants and bars remain closed for dine-in service;
  • Personal care and grooming businesses, including barbershops, beauty, nail, and tanning salons, and tattoo parlors, remain closed;
  • Entertainment facilities, including movie theaters, bowling alleys, and performance venues, remain closed;
  • Fitness facilities such as health clubs and gyms remain closed;
  • People may leave their homes to obtain medical services, obtain goods and services, engage in outdoor exercise, take care of others or volunteer;
  • Playgrounds remain closed;
  • Open retail businesses must meet certain requirements to ensure the safety of their employees and customers; and
  • Visitation continues to be banned at long-term care facilities, except for certain compassionate care situations.

North Carolinians may leave their homes for the following allowable activities during Phase 1:

  • Work at any business, nonprofit, government, or other organization that is not closed by an Executive Order, or seek employment;
  • Take care of health and safety needs, including to seek emergency medical services, obtain medical supplies and medication, or visit a health care professional or veterinarian;
  • Receive goods, services, or supplies from any business or operation that is not closed by an Executive Order;
  • Engage in outdoor activities, including to walk, hike, run, golf, hunt, fish, or hike outdoors;
  • Take care of others, including assisting a family member, friend or pet, or attend weddings or funerals;
  • Worship or exercise First Amendment rights, outdoors and following social distancing guidelines;
  • Travel between places of residence, including child custody or visitation arrangements;
  • Volunteer with organizations that provide charitable and social services;
  • Gather at other people’s homes with no more than ten people outdoors while following social distancing guidelines; and provide or receive government services.

Restaurants will remain closed for dine-in meals. Take-out, drive-through, and delivery services continue to be allowed. Shopping malls are open to the public. However, all congregation areas including food courts will remain closed. Shoppers are limited to going into retail locations only.

All retail businesses must follow these requirements:

  • Direct customers and staff to stay at least six feet apart except at the point of sale if applicable;
  • Limit occupancy to not more than 50 percent of stated fire capacity and ensure that social distancing of six feet apart if possible;
  • Mark six feet of spacing in lines at the point of sale and in other high-traffic customer areas;
  • Perform frequent and routine environmental cleaning and disinfection of high-touch areas with an EPA-approved disinfectant of COVID-19;
  • Provide, whenever available, hand sanitizer stations, and ensure soap and hand drying materials are available at sinks;
  • Conduct daily symptom screening of employee before entering the workplace and immediately send symptomatic workers home;
  • Have a plan in place to immediately isolate an employee from work if symptoms develop; and
  • Post signage at the main entrances to remind people about social distancing guidelines, to request people who are or have been recently symptomatic not to enter, and to notify customers of the reduced store capacity.

Retail businesses are also strongly encouraged to:

  • Direct workers to stay at least six feet apart from one another and from customers, to the greatest extent possible;
  • Provide designated times for seniors and other high-risk populations to access services; and
  • Develop and use systems that allow for online, email, or telephone order, no-contact curbside or drive-through pickup or home delivery, and contact-free checkout.
  • High-volume retail businesses, such as grocery stores and pharmacies, are strongly encouraged to:
  • Install acrylic or plastic shields at cash registers;
  • Clearly mark designated entry and exit points; and
  • Provide assistance with routing through aisles in the store.

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