Governor extends stay-at-home order, outlines phases for reopening

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Governor Roy Cooper announced Thursday that the current stay at home order will be extended and outlined a three-phase plan to reopen the state’s economy.

The stay at home order that went into affect March 30 will be extended to May 8.


The extension also includes continued closure of dine-in restaurants, bars and other close-contact businesses like hair and nail salons, movie theaters and other businesses forced to close by Executive Order 120.

Secretary of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Dr. Mandy Cohen outlined four metrics the state is analyzing to inform decisions to ease restrictions.


She said the state is monitoring COVID-like syndromic cases, lab-confirmed cases, positive tests as a percentage of total tests and number of hospitalizations over a 14 day time period.


Of those trends, Cohen said the trajectory of COVID-like syndomic tests is declining.


“This is when someone comes to the emergency room with a symptom of COVID-19,” she said. “So we’re able to pick that up before we get a COVID-19 positive test. We’re able to say: ‘Did someone come into a health care setting with the symptoms of fever, or cough, or shortness of breath, or need oxygen therapy?’ This gives us the earliest read of where things are in terms of what’s going on in our health care systems.”


Cohen said while the acceleration of the state’s case count is slowing, there has not been a downward trajectory in the past 14 days.


There is also not a declining trajectory of positive tests as a percentage of total tests and number of hospitalizations.


In terms of the state’s testing and tracing capacity, Cohen said the state’s goal is to increase the number of daily tests to between 5,000 and 7,000 and the number of tracers, those people tasked with contacting the individuals who may have come in contact with an individual with COVID-19, from 250 to 500.


Cohen also said the state’s goal is to build up enough supply to be able to fill requests for personal protective equipment for at least 30 days. The state does not currently have an adequate supply of gowns and N95 masks.


Cohen said the state has not seen a peak in cases.


“We have not seen a surge in cases and that’s great,” she said. “We have not seen a peak. We have not seen our health care system be overrun. And that’s a good thing. So, we’re in a slightly different place. We’re not going to see a peak that then necessarily comes down. What we may see in North Carolina is a sustained leveling and that sustained leveling will also allow us to move forward with some of this reopening.”


Cohen closed with a word of cautious optimism.


“I want to make sure you know that the hard work that you’ve been doing has meant that North Carolina is in a very good place,” she said. “We have flattened the curve, but we’re not there quite yet.”


Phased reopening
Cooper outlined a three-phase reopening that could begin when the state meets the metrics Cohen outlined.


Phase one would keep a stay-at-home order in place, but would be modified to allow North Carolinians to leave home for more commercial activities.


Retailers will still be required to implement social distancing and other increased hygiene and cleaning protocols.


Mass gatherings will still be limited to no more than 10 people.


Parks will be able to open while still being subject to gathering restrictions.


Face coverings will still be recommended in public.


Restrictions will remain in place for nursing homes and other congregate living settings.


Teleworking will still be encouraged.


The second phase would be expected to begin two to three weeks after the end of the first phase.


That phase would see the stay-at-home order lifted while the most vulnerable populations are encouraged to continue staying at home.


Restaurants, bars and other businesses that can follow strict safety protocols like a reduced capacity would be allowed to reopen in phase two.


There would be an increase in the number of people allowed in mass gatherings and gathering would be allowed at places of worship under reduced capacities.


The final phase of the staged reopening would be expected to start four to six weeks after phase two.


That third phase would lessen the restrictions on vulnerable populations with encouragement to practice social distancing.


It would allow increased capacity at restaurants, bars, other businesses, places of worship and entertainment venues and would increase the amount of people allowed at gatherings.


All three phases would include continued restrictions on nursing homes and other congregate care settings.


Cooper said the phases may have to be adjusted if the monitored metrics begin trending in the wrong direction.

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