By Mark Jurkowitz | Outer Banks Voice on May 20, 2020
Restaurants can re-open, bars stay closed
Citing the recent uptick in lab-reported COVID-19 cases in North Carolina, Governor Roy Cooper announced today that the state will move into a “Safer-At-Home” Phase Two of easing restrictions on May 22 at 5 p.m., a decision he characterized as a “more modest step forward than originally envisioned.”
Under these Phase Two rules, restaurants can re-open at 50% capacity. Personal care businesses, such as salons and barbers, can also re-open at 50% capacity, as can swimming pools. All those businesses must adhere to distancing and cleaning requirements.
The limitation on mass gatherings remains at 10 people indoors, but it is raised to 25 people outdoors in most circumstances. Worship services are exempt from the limits on mass gatherings although Cooper stated that, “We are encouraging [them to practice] social distancing.” Day camps and overnight camps will be open with enhanced cleaning and screening requirements.
But in this more cautious lifting of restrictions, Cooper explained that bars, nightclubs, gyms, indoor entertainment venues and public playgrounds will remain closed. This version of Phase Two will stay in effect until at least June 26.
At his afternoon briefing on May 20, both Cooper and NC Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen indicated that the number of new COVID-19 cases being reported was preventing the state from opening more fully.
Running through key indicators and trends, Cohen said the number of North Carolinians presenting in emergency rooms with COVID-19-like symptoms was “decreasing and this is good news.” The number of positive COVID-19 tests as a percentage of all tests, was “stable,” she added. And the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations is “level,” which is also a positive sign.
But pointing to the recent one-day record of 853 new cases in the state, Cohen said that, “I would have liked to see this trend starting to level.” She noted that while some of this increase in cases is attributable to higher levels of testing — with the state now averaging between 8,000 and 12,000 tests a day — “it also signals that we need to take a cautious approach to Phase Two.”