Phase One of reopening state to begin Friday, Gov. Cooper enforces “three W’s”

Emily Broyles, Reporter

Phase One of easing restrictions and re-opening the state begins this Friday, May 8, Gov. Roy Cooper said in a press conference Tuesday. The new executive order will go into effect at 5 p.m.

“Over the past several weeks, North Carolinians have done hard work staying at home, keeping a social distance and wearing face coverings to protect their families, their friends and their neighbors,” Cooper said.

Cooper said while North Carolinians have prevented “an overwhelming spike in infections,” there is still no cure or vaccine for COVID-19. 

“Because of this, we have to be cautious and methodical with plans to ease restrictions. Removing them all at once would cause a surge in new cases, more people in the hospital and more North Carolinians dying,” Cooper said. “We have to keep taking precautions to keep people safe, but at the same time we know we can’t stay in our homes forever.”

The stay-at-home order will remain throughout Phase One, but allows more commercial activity and social interaction. The designations of essential and non-essential businesses will be removed and retail stores can increase to 50% capacity, as long as social distancing is implemented, Cooper said. Teleworking is still encouraged throughout Phase One.

“As certain businesses come back online, we know that the need of childcare will increase, and Phase One will allow childcare centers to re-enroll children whose parents are back at work or are looking for work, as long as the centers follow strict cleaning requirements,” Cooper said.

Salons, barbers, theaters, bars, gyms and pools will remain closed during Phase One. Restaurants will also stay closed and limited to takeout and delivery. 

“These businesses will have the opportunity to open and do more in Phase Two,” Cooper tweeted following the press conference.

The order keeps a limit of 10 people at gatherings, but socializing outdoors with friends is allowed if they are socially distance. Parks and trails are encouraged to re-open as well.

Cooper and Mandy Cohen, secretary of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, encouraged North Carolinians to remember “the three W’s” when leaving the house during Phase One: wear, wait, wash.

The state encourages people to wear cloth face coverings when leaving the house and wait” six feet apart from others to avoid close contact. Washing hands often or using sanitizer is also highly encouraged. 

The new executive order is set to expire May 22, but Cooper said “we’ll extend Phase One longer than two weeks” if indicators lean in the opposite direction.

As Cooper and his team are “easing restrictions in a data-driven way,” he recognized North Carolina citizens behind the numbers.

“Whenever you stay at home, sanitize a grocery cart, go out wearing a face covering and stay physically distant, you are looking out for your neighbor,” Cooper said.