Here’s what NC’s modified stay-at-home order, transition to Phase 1 of reopening means

CHARLOTTE — Gov. Roy Cooper signed Executive Order No. 138 on Tuesday to modify North Carolina’s stay-at-home order and transition to Phase 1 of slowly easing certain COVID-19 restrictions effective Friday, May 8 at 5 p.m. Certain businesses remain closed as the state continues battling COVID-19.

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“COVID-19 is still a serious threat to our state, and Phase 1 is designed to be a limited easing of restrictions that can boost parts of our economy while keeping important safety rules in place,” said 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.”

[Read Frequently Asked Questions about the order]

[Read a copy of today’s graphs and slides]

“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 NC Department of Health and Human Services.

The new order removes the distinction between essential and non-essential businesses. Retail businesses are allowed to open at 50% capacity and will be required to direct customers to stand 6 feet apart, perform frequent cleanings, provide hand sanitizer when available, screen workers for symptoms and more.

That's good news for small businesses like The Ultra Running Company in South End.

Owner Nathan Leehman said he'll be rearranging his business to be more compliant with socially distant.

“We're going to put our customers and employees first,” he said. “As we come out of this, our goal is to really take the very best information we have and create an environment where everyone is comfortable.”

He said there will be plenty of hand sanitizer, and he's going to ask customers and employees to wear masks.

If his workers do not feel safe, he'll find work for them that's not in the store.

“We’re going to be working with staff seeing who is comfortable coming in,” Leehman said. “We are going to really respect the staff not coming into our store and show them they are still important to us.”

Those with Girl Tribe in South End said they did its part to flatten the curve. It was one of the first Charlotte businesses to close before the mandate and they are not opening their doors for now.

“We need a little more time to figure out what all the regulations are,” Sarah Baucom said. “What all the suggestions are and to come up with a plan for us, our staff and our customers.”

When the store does reopen, face coverings will likely be required, and some seating areas may be eliminated.

Girl Tribe will continue operating online until they're sure they can reopen responsibly.

“I don’t know when that date is going to be,” Baucom said. “It is going to be Carrie and I having to figure out when we are comfortable to work the store and then to pass that along to our customers and employees.”

The order allows people to leave their homes for commercial activity at any business that is open.

Certain businesses remain closed, including bars, personal care businesses, entertainment venues, and gyms. Restaurants may only continue to serve customers for drive-through, take out and delivery.

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All workers at retail and other businesses are recommended to wear cloth face coverings. Teleworking is still encouraged for businesses that can practice it.

Though small outdoor gatherings will be allowed in Phase 1, gatherings of more than 10 people generally are still prohibited. The order encourages cloth face coverings to be worn when outside the home and in contact with others. Everyone who uses a face covering should adhere to this guidance without fear of profiling or bias.

During Phase 1, childcare facilities will be open to serve families of parents who are working or looking for work. These centers will be required to follow strict cleaning protocols. Summer day camps can operate in compliance with NC DHHS guidelines.

In explaining the modified order, Cooper and Cohen reported North Carolina remains stable on the following key metrics:

Trajectory in COVID-Like Illness (CLI) Surveillance Over 14 Days

  • North Carolina’s syndromic surveillance trend for COVID-like illness is decreasing.

Trajectory of Lab-Confirmed Cases Over 14 Days

  • North Carolina’s trajectory of lab-confirmed cases over the last 14 days cases is slightly increasing.

Trajectory in Percent of Tests Returning Positive Over 14 Days

  • North Carolina’s trajectory in percent of tests returning positive over the last 14 days is decreasing.

Trajectory in Hospitalizations Over 14 Days

  • North Carolina’s trajectory of hospitalizations over the last 14 days is level.

In addition to these metrics, the state continues building capacity to be able to adequately respond to an increase in virus spread. These areas include:

Laboratory Testing

  • North Carolina has doubled the daily testing rate.

Tracing Capability

  • The Carolina Community Tracing Collaborative has received over 4,000 applications and is in the process of hiring 250 new contact tracers.

Personal Protective Equipment

  • Supply chains continue to improve with the exception of gowns.

The order is in effect until 5 pm on Friday, May 22. However, the end of this Order does not necessarily mean the state will move to Phase 2. Phase 2 will only start if data and indicators are in the right place.

Cooper’s three-part approach to reopening the state falls in line with recommendations from the federal government. During each phase, officials will be monitoring the number of positive cases and any noticeable spike in cases, the percentage of positive tests and the number of overall hospitalizations due to COVID-19.

Phase 2 of the reopening plan includes a lifting of the stay-at-home order and allowing limited dine-in services at restaurants.

It would allow openings of restaurants, bars, fitness centers and other businesses that can follow safety regulations. It would also allow people back at worship and entertainment venues, but with fewer people inside. More people would be allowed at gatherings and public playgrounds would open.

Phase 3 could start as early as late June or early-July.

More people would be allowed in businesses, worship and entertainment venues and more people would be allowed at gatherings. The isolation guidelines would also be eased for people more likely to get sick, but they’d be encouraged to continue social distancing.