Phase One of North Carolina’s three-phase economic reopening plan will go into effect at 5 p.m. Friday, Governor Roy Cooper announced at a 5 p.m. press conference today.

The statewide stay-at-home order will remain in place throughout Phase One, which will expire May 22 and be extended, the Governor said, if the COVID-19 data “indicators are not in the right place.”

During Phase One, which is designed for “limited easing of restrictions,” the Governor said residents will be allowed to leave home for more reasons, including for more commercial activity.

Most businesses that are not close-contact businesses, such as restaurants, bars, hair and nail salons, gyms and fitness centers, will be allowed to open, and all retail stores may have 50-percent capacity, provided social distancing is maintained, the Governor said.

Restaurants will continue to provide carry-out and delivery service, as previously established.

Mass gatherings will continue to be limited to 10 persons in Phase One, except for religious activities outdoors, where more than 10 people may gather, provided social distancing is observed.

State parks and trails will also reopen.

“We have flattened the curve,” Governor Cooper said, “but we haven’t eliminated COVID-19.” He stressed that State officials are being “cautious and methodical with plans to remove restrictions.”

Before the Governor announced his new executive order initiating Phase One, NCDHHS Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen went over the trends of the four metrics that the State has been following, concluding: “We look relatively stable.”

The only metric that she said has not declined or leveled off is the number of laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 cases, which have shown a “slight increase” in the past seven days. With increased testing, Dr. Cohen did not view this increase as significant.

“We are heading in the right direction,” Dr. Cohen said, “[but we’re] not perfect.”

The Beacon will go over Dr. Cohen’s report in more detail tomorrow. The Southern Shores Town Council meeting has already started, and we would like to join it. Dr. Cohen said a full report on surveillance will be posted on the NCDHHS website Thursday.

Both Dr. Cohen and Governor Cooper touted a 3-W message for North Carolina residents to remember when they go out. “If you leave home, remember,” Dr. Cohen said:

W—To WEAR a face covering

W—To WAIT six feet apart from other people

W—To WASH your hands often.

“We have to continue to protect our loved ones and our neighbors,” the Governor said. “But we still have a way to go.”

Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 5/5/20


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