DHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen | Photo courtesy of WRAL

NC to Move Into Phase Two

In Buzz, May 2020, Web Exclusive by Jane Porter1 Comment

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WEB EXCLUSIVE North Carolina will move into a modest phase two reopening on Friday at 5 p.m., Gov. Cooper announced this week.

Under the new executive order, people may leave their homes for whatever reason, but public officials are still strongly advising North Carolinians to “stay safe at home.” People should continue to work remotely if they can, Cooper said during a press conference on Wednesday, and if they do go out, they’re advised to follow “the three Ws:”

  1. Wear a face covering to protect others
  2. Wait six feet apart in public
  3. Wash your hands often

Allowed to open under the order are restaurants, tattoo parlors and personal care businesses (salons, spas, barber shops, nail salons) at 50 percent capacity, with social distancing and mask wearing for workers and rigorous cleaning methods in place. Day care centers may reopen to all children, swimming pools may open at 50 percent capacity and overnight and day camps may reopen, too.

Bars and night clubs, gyms and fitness centers (including dance studios, basketball courts, rock climbing facilities, etc.), movie theaters, public playgrounds, bowling alleys, skating rinks, museums, concert venues and other indoor entertainment venues must remain closed, likely for five more weeks.

Under the order, indoor gatherings will be allowed but limited to no more than 10 people, including at event venues and conference centers. No more than 25 people are allowed to gather together outdoors at beaches, public parks, sports arenas and stadiums and outdoor amphitheaters. Weddings and funerals can be held without the mass gathering caps but receptions following the ceremonies are not allowed.

“We think this phase two is a good boost to the economy but at the same time, it’s working to keep people safe,” Cooper said.

The phase two, which officials say will last for four to six weeks, is stricter than many business owners had anticipated. Originally, public officials had planned to lift the stay at home order and encourage only vulnerable populations to continue staying at home. Bars and many other businesses would have been allowed to reopen following phase one, but the increasing number of laboratory confirmed COVID-19 cases in the state has warranted a more cautious approach, officials said.

NC DHHS Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen said the phase two order is based on a steady or declining percentage of positive COVID cases. While the number of laboratory confirmed cases is increasing, so too are the numbers of tests being administered, between 8,000-12,000 daily. Along with increased testing, front line workers are receiving more PPE, the trajectory of hospitalizations is slowing and the Carolina Community Tracing Collaborative has added 150 staffers for ramped up contact tracing.

“The state’s trends are stable but we still need to be cautious,” Cohen said.

Under phase two, worship services are allowed to take place indoors without having to adhere to the 10-person maximum but Cooper urged worship leaders to plan carefully and use social distancing.

“I hope pastors and church leaders throughout North Carolina will think twice about what they’re doing and look at recommendations and follow them for the health and safety of their members,” Cooper said. “I believe most will.”

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