Reopening: Phase One

With “Phase One” beginning May 8 at 5:00 pm., many wonder what this means for North Carolinians. Gov. Roy Cooper laid out more details Tuesday evening about moving forward into Executive Order 138, which modifies the initial stay-at-home order. Let’s take a look at what’s included and what should have been included.

Most importantly, Phase One removes the distinction between essential and non-essential businesses and allows retail businesses to open at 50% store capacity while complying with CDC distancing guidelines.

The new order allows people to leave their homes for commercial activity at any open business. While some businesses will now be allowed to operate with new restrictions, other businesses remain closed. Closed businesses include bars, salons, beauty care, entertainment venues, and gyms. Restaurants may only continue to serve customers via drive-thru, take-out and home delivery. Though small outdoor gatherings will be allowed in Phase One, gatherings of more than 10 individuals are still prohibited.

North Carolina will operate under Phase One procedures until May 22 unless Governor Cooper decides otherwise. The decision to move to Phase Two will be decided from Phase One evaluations. The Governor and Secretary Cohen have stated that the trajectory of cases in North Carolina is increasing slightly meaning the curve has not yet flattened, but also suggesting that growth rate is stabilizing.

Unfortunately, the Governor’s one-size-fits-all approach ignores the realities on the ground in various parts of North Carolina. House Speaker Tim Moore recently noted, “The rate of this disease, the spread of it, is not the same across the country. You clearly have some very significant hot-spots right now — New York City being the one we’re all seeing every evening on the news. But others as well — Washington, San Francisco, generally the urban areas that are more densely populated. And I would submit to you, you can look around our state. The more rural areas, where you have folks spread out, you’re going to have less spread than if you’re in the urban area. If you’re in Hyde County, where you probably got more bears than people, you’re probably in less danger than if you’re in Durham County.”

Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger added, “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?”

While Phase One includes minimal changes to the state-at-home order, Phase Two includes a few more changes. Hopefully, the Governor will adapt his approach to the conditions on the ground.

Phase Two

  • 2-3 weeks after Phase One, aimed at beginning May 22nd
  • Lifts stay-at-home order, except for vulnerable populations
  • Opens gyms, bars, restaurants, and personal care services slightly
  • Opens entertainment venues and places of worship
  • Increases capacity of establishments
  • Opens public playgrounds.

Below is a graphic created by NCDHHS which addresses frequently asked questions surrounding Phase One in North Carolina.

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