RALEIGH, N.C. – Starting at 5 p.m. on Friday, May 8, residents of N.C. will have certain restrictions lifted as the state moves toward reopening.
In Phase One, the distinction between essential and non-essential businesses is removed and individuals can leave their homes for any commercial activity that is open. Small outdoor gatherings are allowed, but gatherings more than 10 are still prohibited. Religious services and First Amendment activities are also allowed but must follow social distancing protocols. However, the 10-person limit doesn’t apply to these gatherings, but they should gather outside unless impossible.
“COVID-19 is still a serious threat to our state, and Phase 1 is designed to be a limited easing of restrictions that can boost parts of our economy while keeping important safety rules in place,” said Governor Cooper. “This is a careful and deliberate first step, guided by the data, and North Carolinians still must use caution while this virus is circulating.”
Those who do decide to go out they are encouraged to wear a face mask, carry hand sanitizer, wash their hands whenever possible, and regularly clean high-touch surfaces.
“When leaving home and wear it inside all public settings such as grocery stores, pharmacies, or other retail or public-serving businesses. A Face Covering should also be worn outdoors when you cannot maintain at least six (6) feet distancing from other people with the exception of family or household members. These coverings function to protect other people more than the wearer,” states the Executive Order.
Retail stores can operate at 50 percent capacity. Additionally, customers must stand six feet apart and retailers should provide hand sanitizer, screen employees, and frequently clean. NCDHHS is posting the screening questionnaire online.
Businesses that remain closed are bars, personal care businesses, entertainment venues, and gyms.
Restaurants may only continue to serve customers for drive-through, takeout and delivery.
All employees are encouraged to wear face masks or coverings and Cooper still recommends teleworking whenever possible.
Long-term care facilities are still closed to visitors.
Parks are encouraged to open if they can accommodate social distancing, but playgrounds should remain closed.
Childcare facilities will be open to serve families who need the assistance. The organizations are required to follow strict cleaning protocols. Summer day camps can operate in compliance with NC DHHS guidelines.
In explaining the decision to move to Phase One, Cooper and Secretary Cohen reported North Carolina remains stable on the following key metrics:
- Trajectory in COVID-Like Illness (CLI) Surveillance Over 14 Days – North Carolina’s syndromic surveillance trend for COVID-like illness is decreasing.
- Trajectory of Lab-Confirmed Cases Over 14 Days – North Carolina’s trajectory of lab-confirmed cases over the last 14 days cases is slightly increasing.
- Trajectory in Percent of Tests Returning Positive Over 14 Days – North Carolina’s trajectory in percent of tests returning positive over the last 14 days is decreasing.
- Trajectory in Hospitalizations Over 14 Days – North Carolina’s trajectory of hospitalizations over the last 14 days is level.
In addition to these metrics, the state continues building capacity to be able to adequately respond to an increase in virus spread. These areas include:
- Laboratory Testing – North Carolina has doubled the daily testing rate.
- Tracing Capability – The Carolina Community Tracing Collaborative has received over 4,000 applications and is in the process of hiring 250 new contact tracers.
- Personal Protective Equipment – Supply chains continue to improve with the exception of gowns.
The order is in effect until 5 p,m, on Friday, May 22. However, the end of this Order does not necessarily mean the state will move to Phase Two. Phase Two only start if data and indicators are in the right place.