NORTH CAROLINA — North Carolina will push forward in advancing into the next phase of easing some restrictions throughout the state Friday, however, plans have been scaled back due to the continued increase of coronavirus cases in the state, Gov. Roy Cooper said Wednesday.
The "Safer-At-Home" Phase 2 executive order goes into effect May 22 at 5 p.m. and will be in place until June 26.
"We are in a good place to make a cautious move here," that will help boost the state's economy, Cooper said.
As of Wednesday, there were 20,122 confirmed cases of novel coronavirus in North Carolina, and 702 deaths, according to NC DHHS data.
Cooper has said loosening current "Phase 1" stay-at-home restrictions, which are set to expire Friday at 5 p.m., would be determined by progress in testing, tracing and a downward change in trends.
According to state public health officials, those trends are mostly stable, but could be better.
The percent of North Carolinians going to their emergency rooms with COVID-like illnesses is decreasing, and the trajectory of the percentage of tests that are coming back positive and the number of hospitalizations for COVID-related illness is leveling out.
New cases, however, are increasing in North Carolina.
"We know as we do more testing, we expect this indicator to rise. But this increase in case count also shows us that the virus is here in our communities across the state," North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen said at a news conference Wednesday evening.
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State officials say that Phase 1 restrictions, which went into effect May 8, have been pivotal in preventing a dramatic spike in cases.
"However the increases in the COVID-19 cases signal a need to take a more modest step forward in Phase 2 than originally envisioned," Cooper said.
While the stay-at-home restrictions are lifting, the new order includes a "safer at home" recommendation to decrease opportunity for the spread of COVID-19. The modified approach to reopening the state also means that many of the capacity restrictions for retail businesses and limitations on mass gatherings will remain in effect.
"When people gather together, one person can be the spark to spread the virus to many," Cooper said.
Included in the Phase 2 executive order:
- Indoor restaurant areas will be limited to 50 percent capacity with distancing and cleaning requirements
- Personal care businesses, such as salons and barbers, will be allowed open at 50 percent capacity with distancing and cleaning requirements. Employees will be required to wear face coverings.
- Swimming pools will also be able to open at 50 percent capacity with distancing and cleaning requirements
- Retail businesses will continue to operate at 50 percent capacity
- Overnight and day camps will be allowed to operate with special guidance
- Teleworking continues to be recommended when possible
- Bars, nightclubs, gyms, indoor entertainment venues such as movie theaters, museums, as well as public playgrounds will remain closed.
- Mass gathering limitations will also remain, with no more than 10 people gathered together indoors and 25 people when outdoors
- Church services will be exempt from the order, however are encouraged to adhere to mass gathering and social distancing recommendations
Globally, nearly 5 million have been infected by COVID-19, and nearly 326,000 people have lost their lives, Johns Hopkins University reported Wednesday afternoon. In the U.S., more than 1.5 million people have been infected and at least 92,712 people have died from COVID-19.
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