Gov. Roy Cooper extends Phase Two restrictions until September

Gianna Holiday, Associate News Editor

Gov. Roy Cooper announced Wednesday that Phase Two of coronavirus restrictions will be extended, this time until at least Sept. 11. This is the third time Phase Two has been extended since May. 

“You only have to look at hospitals in other states that have been overwhelmed when reopening occurred too fast,”Cooper said during a press conference.

Dr. Mandy Cohen, secretary of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, said it appears the state is starting to stabilize, but the rate of cases is still high.

However, Cooper said that is not good enough to reduce any more of the restrictions in place.

“In North Carolina, we’ve used a dimmer switch approach to easing restrictions,” Cooper said. “This ensured we didn’t open too much, too quickly, which health experts say can lead to a devastating increase in cases, sickness and death.”

The state has been in “Safer At Home” Phase Two of COVID-19 restrictions on business and leisure activity since May 22.

In Phase 2, restrictions are in place to limit the size of gatherings indoors and outdoors in retail stores, restaurants and other businesses. Phase 2 also has restrictions to keep bars, gyms, large entertainment venues, and other crowded establishments closed. 

The decision comes partially in response to students who will be returning to school in mid-August, although many colleges will offer online classes.

“The opening of schools and colleges is an important one — education must go on, even in a pandemic,” Cooper said. “In-person learning has benefits. But it means challenges for our state, especially as our higher education campuses draw students from around the country and the world.”

Cooper said this was mostly due to students moving around during this time along with the virus. 

“Other states that lifted restrictions quickly have had to go backward as their hospital capacity ran dangerously low and their cases jumped higher,” Cooper said. “We won’t make that mistake in North Carolina.”

The state DHHS has counted more than 2,000 COVID-19 deaths in the state since the pandemic reached North Carolina in early March, and over 13,000 positive cases.

The executive order that will extend Phase 2 goes into effect Aug. 7 at 5 p.m.