By Nyamekye Daniel
(The Center Square) – While some Southern governors have taken steps to lift restrictions meant to stop the spread of COVID-19, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper on April 23 extended the state’s stay-at-home order by nine days.
The order, scheduled to last through April 29, now will last through May 8.
Cooper said the state has not seen an adequate decrease in COVID-19 cases and more testing and monitoring is needed before the economy can be reopened.
When the time is right, restrictions will be lifted in three phases, he said.
“North Carolina cannot stay at home indefinitely,” Cooper said. “We have to get more people back to work. I know that this pandemic has made life difficult for many people in our state, and I am focused on keeping our communities safe while planning to slowly lift restrictions to help cushion the blow to our economy.”
The plan will not be implemented until North Carolina has a downward trend in COVID-19-like symptoms, confirmed cases and positive tests. Cooper also wants to increase testing from between 2,500 and 3,000 people per day to at least 5,000 to 7,000 per day, double contact tracing staff and secure a 30-day supply of personal protective equipment.
“If we stick to these efforts right now, we will continue to see a slowing of virus spread and we can slowly begin easing restrictions,” said Dr. Mandy Cohen, secretary of the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services.
The plan announced by Cooper on April 23 is modeled after White House guidance for reactivating the economy.
In the first phase, North Carolinians will be allowed to travel, go to parks, and shop at bookstores, clothing stores, housewares and sporting goods stores, and other retail shops. Retailers still will have to follow social distancing and sanitation guidelines.
Gatherings will be limited to no more than 10 people. People who are at higher risks for severe complications still will be required to shelter in place.
Two to three weeks after the first phase, restaurants, bars, fitness centers, personal care services, other businesses, churches and playgrounds will be allowed to open with limited capacity.
A month to six weeks later, occupancy and social gathering capacities can be increased and vulnerable populations will be able to venture to places with low chances of exposure. North Carolinians in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities will remain under tight restrictions.
Senate Leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, said Cooper’s plan prolongs hardship for restaurants that have faced the hardest financial hit from the pandemic.
“The fact that we now have some detail is welcome progress, though reasonable people will disagree on the merits,” Berger said in a statement. “Gov. Cooper has extended the statewide restaurant closure through June 1, by which point many of those small businesses will likely be bankrupt.”
Cooper on April 23 also extended a previous order that closed dine-in restaurant service and bars through May 8.
Berger said after Cooper’s announcement, he received calls from 100 people, “including [a] small business owner who called crying, saying the government might as well kill her business now.”
Pleased @NC_Governor is keeping the Stay at Home Order in place until at least May 8. It ensures countywide consistency, keeps the curve flattening and makes our communities safer.
My first Business Roundtable is Friday morning. Media Q&A shortly after at 10 am.
— Dena Diorio (@DenaDiorio) April 23, 2020
— Senator Thom Tillis (@SenThomTillis) April 23, 2020