By Nyamekye Daniel
(The Center Square) – Gov. Roy Cooper signed an executive order May 5 that will move North Carolina to the first phase of reopening May 8.
The order allows parks and trails and certain businesses to reopen with limited capacity. Public gatherings of up to 10 people also will be permitted. However, the state’s stay-at-home order remains in place.
“COVID-19 is still a serious threat to our state, and phase one is designed to be a limited easing of restrictions that can boost parts of our economy while keeping important safety rules in place,” Cooper said. “This is a careful and deliberate first step, guided by the data, and North Carolinians still must use caution while this virus is circulating.”
Dr. Mandy Cohen, secretary of the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services said the state has met three of the four benchmarks it needs to start to ease restrictions.
There has been a downward trend in hospital visits for COVID-19-like symptoms and day-over-day hospitalizations have leveled.
Laboratory-confirmed cases increased slightly last week, but they have started to level off, too, Cohen said May 5.
Because the state has doubled testing, the number of positive tests has increased. Yet, the percentage of positive tests compared to the total number has dropped, Cohen said.
“We’re not perfect, but we’re stable,” she said.
As of May 5, 151,800 tests have been administered in North Carolina. NCDHHS has reported 12,256 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state, including 452 deaths and 534 current hospitalizations.
Senate Leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, criticized Cooper for falling short of lifting the stay-at-home order.
“Gov. Cooper’s announcement is largely a continuation of the existing lockdown,” Berger said in a statement. “Today in North Carolina, over half of our counties comprise less than 10% of confirmed cases. Why is a blanket, one-size-fits-all statewide order justified? I’m concerned that Gov. Cooper is ignoring more reasonable approaches and the experiences of the majority of states.”
Over the past few weeks, activists protesting against Cooper’s stay-at-home order, issued March 27, have been arrested for violating the executive rule.
Under the governor’s order, up to 10 protesters will be permitted to gather in public. Religious and other social gatherings also will be allowed in the same fashion. Theaters, live performance venues, gyms, bars, restaurants, playgrounds and bowling alleys will remain closed.
North Carolinians will able to leave their homes May 8 for commercial activity, such as for work, or to look for a job, volunteer, or to seek government aid. Child care centers will be opened to accommodate parents.
However, people will not be able to go to salons, barbershops, massage parlors or tattoo parlors, which will remain closed.
Retail stores can reopen May 8 with a 50% cap on occupancy, increased sanitation and symptom checks for employees.
Cohen said all North Carolinians should continue to keep a physical distance of six feet, wear masks and wash their hands frequently, all encouraged in Cooper’s order.
The governor’s order is set to expire May 22.
North Carolina will move into Phase One at 5 PM on Friday, May 8. Learn more about what this means for you and your family below. 👇 pic.twitter.com/gQnTzdxJaN
— Governor Roy Cooper (@NC_Governor) May 5, 2020