Gov. Roy Cooper says “phase one” begins Friday

April 30, 2019 - Gov. Roy Cooper at a COVID-19 update responded to criticism about slow unemployment payments by saying he had ordered the Employment Security Commission to increase the number of people who are handling telephone calls. Photo: NC Dept. of Public Safety

RALEIGH – At a media briefing from the Emergency Operations Center in Raleigh, Gov. Roy Cooper announced the first of his three-phase plan to re-open North Carolina’s economy will begin Friday at 5 p.m.

Gov. Cooper said that the state must be “cautious and methodical” and restrictions would not be lifted all at once. In the first phase, the stay-at-home order remains in place but more commercial activity is permitted. The executive order for phase one is in effect from May 8 until May 22.

“COVID-19 is still a serious threat to our state, and phase one is designed to be a limited easing of restrictions that can boost parts of our economy while keeping important safety rules in place,” said Gov. Cooper. “This is a careful and deliberate first step, guided by the data, and North Carolinians still must use caution while this virus is circulating.”

“We must continue to protect our families and neighbors as we take this cautious step forward. When you leave your home, follow the three W’s: Wear a face covering, wash your hands, and wait six feet apart,” said Dr. Mandy Cohen, Secretary of the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services.

Senate Leader Phil Berger was less complimentary about Cooper’s continuation of most of the previous provisions in the executive order.

“Gov. Cooper’s announcement today is largely a continuation of the existing lockdown. A statewide stay-at-home order still remains in place, and nearly every business that applied for essential status has already been operating at limited capacity so long as they practice social distancing,” said Berger in a statement.”

“We were told ‘flattening the curve’ to prevent overloading hospitals justified a lockdown. Hospitals are not overloaded, and in fact they’re laying people off. So what is the theory to support this plan – eliminate infections or just delay them? Gov. Cooper apparently disagrees with Colorado’s Democratic governor and others who say that a continuing shutdown will not cause a peak in COVID-19 cases to be any less severe, it will only push it down the line,” Berger continued.

Berger appeared to push for a regional approach, saying that the state doesn’t need a blanket statewide order when over half of the state’s counties comprise less than 10% of confirmed cases of COVID-19.

The governor’s full executive order can be read here: Executive Order 138 – Phase 1.

In the comparison chart provided by the governor’s office, some restrictions have been lessened versus the stay-at-home order, but none actually appear to have been officially lifted.

Cooper’s order allows outdoor gatherings of up to 10 friends at a home or residence. State parks are “encouraged” to reopen, but playgrounds remain closed. More businesses can reopen and retail capacity is increased to 50% of fire code maximum capacity.