CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper announced Wednesday that the state would “pause” in the “safer at home” Phase 2 of reopening, which was set to expire on Friday, for another three weeks and require face masks in most public places.
“It’s clear that our numbers will keep us from moving ahead into the next phase of easing restrictions,” Cooper said during a press conference. “This is not where we planned to be, or wanted to be. But it is one of two important decisions that we need to make to effectively fight this disease.”
“North Carolina has been careful in lifting COVID restrictions,” Cooper said. “And it’s because public health experts warn that removing restrictions too fast or all at once can cause a dangerous spike in the virus that would overwhelm our medical system.”
Cooper also announced that residents are now required to wear face masks in public places, indoors or outdoors, where physical distancing of 6 feet from other people who aren’t in the same household or residence isn’t possible.
They will be required for all employees and customers of retail businesses and restaurants as well as workers in manufacturing, construction, meat processing and agriculture settings.
You can read the updated Phase 2 Executive Order in full below:
Gov. Cooper and state health officials said on June 2, during the second week of Phase 2, that North Carolina was not yet ready to enter Phase 3 of reopening, citing statewide trends of the coronavirus.
Cooper and Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen said the data analyzed was not where it should be to lift restrictions further.
The state is basing its decision-making off four metrics, in addition to the state’s capacity for testing, tracing and its hospital capacity: COVID-like syndromic cases, laboratory confirmed positive cases, percent of positive cases and the number of hospitalizations.
On Wednesday during the announcement of the Phase 2 pause, officials updated the public on where N.C. stands:
Trajectory in COVID-Like Illness (CLI) Surveillance Over 14 Days
- North Carolina’s syndromic surveillance trend for COVID-like illness is increasing.
Trajectory of Lab-Confirmed Cases Over 14 Days
- North Carolina’s trajectory of lab-confirmed cases starting to level, but is still increasing.
Trajectory in Percent of Tests Returning Positive Over 14 Days
- North Carolina’s trajectory in percent of tests returning positive remains elevated.
Trajectory in Hospitalizations Over 14 Days
- North Carolina’s trajectory of hospitalizations are increasing, though we have capacity in our healthcare system.
The mass gathering limits in Phase 2 are: no more than 10 people indoors or 25 people outdoors. This applies to event venues; conference centers; stadiums and sports arenas; amphitheaters; and groups at parks or beaches.
Restaurants were re-opened for dine-in customers at 50 percent capacity, with distancing and cleaning requirements.
To help the effort, NCDHHS worked with the North Carolina Restaurant and Lodging Association, NC State Extension and Visit NC to develop an online curriculum for owners, managers and employees of restaurants, hotels and other businesses called “Count on Me NC.”
This is a free online training guide “focused on advanced cleaning, disinfection, social distancing and hygiene practices to better protect the public and employees from exposure to COVID-19,” Cooper said.
For more about Count on Me NC, visit the site here.
Personal care businesses like salons and barbershops can also re-open at 50 percent capacity. These businesses will have face covering and cleaning requirements while also reducing the number of people in the waiting areas.
Swimming pools can to open at 50 percent capacity, and overnight and day camps can open with safety rules. Childcare facilities remain open and are now able to enroll all children.
“Not every restaurant and salon will be able to open Friday evening and some may choose not to open at all. Show them the courtesy of patience as they weigh how best to serve their customers and stay safe. We owe that to them,” Gov. Cooper said.
Some businesses and places remained closed in Phase 2 including bars, night clubs, gyms and indoor fitness facilities, indoor entertainment venues such as movie theaters, bowling alleys, and public playgrounds. This is because the spread of COVID-19 can be significant there, officials say.
The mass gathering limit does not apply to retail businesses, restaurants, personal care and grooming businesses, pools, child care, day camps, and overnight camps. In these settings, there are other restrictions, such as 50 percent reduced occupancy or putting six feet of distance between each group at a restaurant, to ensure that there is not overcrowding.
The prohibition on mass gatherings does not include gatherings for health and safety, to look for and obtain goods and services, for work, or for receiving governmental services.
A mass gathering does not include normal operations at airports, bus and train stations or stops, medical facilities, libraries, shopping malls, and shopping centers. It also does not apply to the exercise of First Amendment rights.
However, in these settings, people are strongly encouraged to follow the Three Ws, and should avoid congregating in groups.
Answers to frequently asked questions about Phase 2 can be found below:
The mass gathering limit and other requirements of this Executive Order do not apply to worship, religious, and spiritual gatherings, funeral ceremonies, wedding ceremonies, and other activities constituting the exercise of First Amendment rights.
Even though there is no mass gathering cap on the people who may attend a wedding or funeral ceremony, receptions or visitations before or after weddings and funerals are subject to the mass gathering limit.
Long-term care facilities should continue to restrict visitation of all visitors and nonessential care personnel, except for certain compassionate care situations, like end-of-life situations.
The restrictions do not apply to essential health care personnel. Long-term care facilities include skilled nursing facilities, adult care homes, family care homes, mental health group homes, and intermediate care facilities for individuals with intellectual disabilities.
“As with previous orders, these restrictions are a floor. Local governments may enact more strict rules if health officials and local leaders believe it’s in the best interest of their communities,” Gov. Cooper said when announcing Phase 2 in May. “In Safer At Home Phase 2, the three Ws are even more important. Wash your hands frequently, wait 6 feet apart from other people and wear a face covering. The face covering is more about protecting other people from your germs in case you have the virus and just don’t know it yet.”