Bars, gyms will have to wait
Following much anticipation, NC Gov. Roy Cooper announced in a press conference on Wednesday afternoon that he would allow the state to move forward with Phase 2 of reopening on Friday, May 22 following statewide closures due to the coronavirus.
With the latest executive order, restrictions on several businesses that bring people in close contact including salons and tattoo parlors will be able to reopen. In addition, restaurants will be able to begin offering dine-in services at reduced capacity.
Other establishments that might include larger gatherings of people, such as bars, movie theaters, bowling alleys and playgrounds will have to wait until Phase 3 in five weeks.
“North Carolinians have made changes and sacrifices in their daily lives and that has helped to flatten the curve here that means hospitals and the medical system can serve sick patients effectively for all kinds of illnesses including COVID-19,” Cooper said.
In time for the unofficial open to summer on Memorial Day weekend, public swimming pools will be able to reopen but must operate at 50 percent capacity. Similarly, overnight and day camps will be allowed to open.
Under Wednesday’s order, indoor gatherings are still limited to 10 people but outdoor gatherings can increase to 25 people. Churches are exempt from the order.
“When people gather, together one person can be the spark to spread the virus to many,” Cooper said.
The Governor’s moves were dependent on key indicators in the health data on coronavirus. On Wednesday, Dr. Mandy Cohen, NC State Health Secretary, said those indicators have remained stable in the past two weeks.
“Overall, the trends have been stable but the data also shows us we need to be cautious and stay vigilant to continue to slow the spread of the virus,” she said.
Across the state there are 20,122 lab confirmed cases, as of May 20. There have been 702 deaths in the state attributed to COVID-19. Testing has increased with a total of 277,603 completed tests. There are currently 554 people hospitalized due to the virus.
Although the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 has increased, testing has broadened and the overall percentage of positive results is leveling.
With a look at symptomatic cases over 14 days, the trend is decreasing.
Cohen said the numbers need to be considered in the context of increased testing. “While we’re seeing more cases day over day… the percent positive continues to look very good,” she said.
Under Phase 2, the state is under a “Safer at Home” recommendation, with the “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order lifted. Vulnerable people are recommended to still stay home and teleworking is still encouraged.
“This next phase can help us boost our economy, that’s important, but we can only help our economy when people have confidence in their own safety, which why it’s important to ease restrictions carefully and use data to decide when to do it,” Cooper said.
While there are now more opportunities for people to leave home and interact, everyone is encouraged to follow the ‘Three W’s’: wear a cloth face covering, wait six feet apart, and wash your hands often or use hand sanitizer.