Cooper says phase two begins Friday

Gov. Roy Cooper briefs media at the Emergency Operations Center in Raleigh. Photo via NC Dept of Public Safety

RALEIGH – Gov. Roy Cooper said Wednesday that the state can move to phase two of his his three-phase reopening plan on Friday at 5 p.m. A day after restaurants were given interim guidance about reopening plans, Cooper gave the green light to lifting more restrictions on movement, gatherings, and types of business that can open.

Gov. Cooper said today’s announcement was another “gradual, cautious step” towards reopening the state by watching the trends over the past 14 days.  Phase Two had originally been billed as lasting four or to six weeks, however, the executive order states it will last five weeks –  until 5 p.m. on June 26.

“We can only help our economy when people have confidence in their own safety,” said Cooper, “which is why it’s important to ease restrictions carefully and use data in deciding when to do it.”

In the new executive order, the stay-at-home order is lifted but individuals are still strongly encouraged to telework to the greatest extent possible.  Personal care, grooming, and tattoo businesses can open as well with significant safeguards as well.

Cooper said “We’ve eliminated the distinction between essential and nonessential businesses” in phase 2, however, bars, nightclubs, gyms, indoor fitness facilities will remain closed.

The ban on mass gatherings indoors is still limited to 10 people. Public playgrounds, movie theaters, and bowling alleys will continue to be closed as well.

In an April 20 email, however, the following provisions were initially listed:

At least 2-3 weeks after Phase 1

    • Lift Stay At Home order with strong encouragement for vulnerable populations to continue staying at home to stay safe
    • Allow limited opening of restaurants, bars, fitness centers, personal care services, and other businesses that can follow safety protocols including the potential need to reduce capacity
    • Allow gathering at places such as houses of worship and entertainment venues at reduced capacity
    • Increase in number of people allowed at gatherings
    • Open public playgrounds
    • Continue rigorous restrictions on nursing homes and other congregant care settings

The full order can be viewed here.

“North Carolina is using the data to guide our decisions about when to lift COVID-19 restrictions, and overall our key indicators remain stable,” said Gov. Cooper. “Safer at home phase two is another careful step forward, and we have to continue taking this virus seriously to prevent a dangerous spike in infections.”

As with previous orders, the governor said that localities may take more drastic actions.

“As with previous Orders, these restrictions are a floor,” said Cooper in a tweet. “Local governments may enact more strict rules if health officials and local leaders believe it’s in the best interest of their communities.”

Durham had already imposed stricter measures, keeping salons, pools and restaurants closed longer during Cooper’s Phase One. According to Durham’s website and Mayor Steve Schewel, “Instead of the governor’s May 22 opening date for the restaurants, personal services and pools, we will have an opening date of June 1 at 5:00 p.m.”

Senate Leader Phil Berger (R-Eden) said of the announcement “I’m glad the governor has responded to the calls of senators, small business owners, and unemployed workers to let them get back to work.” Berger added “When I asked Gov. Cooper to reopen restaurants and personal care services last week, the governor said it wasn’t safe to do so. But according to data yesterday, when the governor began notifying people of his decision, North Carolina had more cases, more hospitalizations, and fewer tests performed than last week.”

Berger also said “This gets back to the central question: what goal does the governor think is achievable? Unfortunately, Gov. Cooper has hidden behind pre-screened virtual press briefings for the entirety of this emergency, making public accountability nearly impossible.”


This is a developing story and will be updated.