RALEIGH — North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper is permitting restaurants, barbershops and salons to welcome customers indoors starting this weekend, but bars, gyms and other indoor entertainment will need to remain closed for another five weeks.
The decision comes nearly two months after a statewide stay-at-home order was put in place to help slow the spread of COVID-19.
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Cooper said he feels comfortable about virus data to extend starting Friday afternoon partial openings to dine-in eating at restaurants and for personal care services. But he said the order is more modest than originally anticipated because the number of overall cases continues to increase.
Cooper said under “Safer at Home Phase 2," the stay-at-home order will be lifted, but it will be "a more modest version of Phase 2 than originally anticipated” because of an increase in coronavirus cases across the state.
“Since we announced Phase 1, the state’s overall key indicators remain stable. However, the increases in COVID-19 cases signal a need to take a more modest step forward in Phase 2 than originally envisioned," he said.
Phase 2 will go into effect at 5 p.m. on Friday.
The following businesses can reopen at limited capacity under Phase 2:
- Restaurant dining rooms (50%)
- Personal care facilities like salons and barbershops (50%)
- Swimming pools (50%)
- Overnight and day camps (with safety rules in place)
The following businesses will remain closed during Phase 2:
- Indoor entertainment facilities such as movie theaters
The governor said he understands the impact of COVID-19 on North Carolinians, especially the ones who have lost their jobs -- so he has directed the Division of Employment Security to improve the efficiency and customer service of the unemployment benefits process.
He said with more businesses opening up, the next phase will help boost North Carolina’s economy, but it will only really work if residents feel safe.
“We can only help our economy when people have confidence in their own safety, which is why it’s important to ease restrictions carefully and use data in deciding when to do it,” he said.
The mass gathering limit remains at 10 people indoors, but increases to 25 people outdoors, which applies to event venues, conference centers, stadiums and sports arenas, amphitheaters and groups at parks or beaches.
According to Cooper, salons and barbershops will have face covering and cleaning requirements while also reducing the number of people in the waiting areas.
As with previous orders, Cooper said the restrictions are a floor. Local health departments can enact stricter rules if they believe it’s in the best interest of their communities.
In the data released Wednesday, the state has conducted more than 277,600 completed tests and the number of positive cases across the state is 20,122.
“North Carolina is using the data to guide our decisions about when to lift COVID-19 restrictions, and overall our key indicators remain stable,” said Cooper. “Safer At Home Phase 2 is another careful step forward, and we have to continue taking this virus seriously to prevent a dangerous spike in infections.”
The percentage of positive tests remains at about 7% and that is good news because the state wanted to see a 14-day drop in the percentage of positive tests before reopening.
At the beginning of the month, we were averaging about 8% positive, but we have been trending down over the last week.
“From the beginning, North Carolinians have joined together to confront this crisis. We need to rely upon one another to practice the three Ws as we begin leaving our homes more. When we wear a face covering, wait six feet apart, and wash our hands often, we are showing we care for our loved ones and neighbors,” said North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen.
On Thursday, a spokesperson for NCDHHS told channel 9 restaurants that reopen cannot offer nightlife activities like DJs, bands and dance floors. Youth sports can resume as long as they do not meet mass gathering limits.
- Can restaurants re-open and offer nightlife activities like a DJ or band with a dance floor? No.
- Can breweries that serve food open? Maybe, depends on the facts.
- Can bars that serve food open? Maybe, depends on the facts.
- Can outdoor youth sports resume? Yes, if not a mass gathering under the indoor/outdoor limitations.
“Bars” means establishments that are not eating establishments or restaurants as defined in N.C. Gen. Stat. §§ 18B-1000(2) and 18B-l000(6), that have a permit to sell alcoholic beverages for onsite consumption under N .C. Gen. Stat. § 18B-1001, and that are principally engaged in the business of selling alcoholic beverages for onsite consumption.
There are three tests there: (1) Is the entity an eating establishment; (2) Does it have a permit for onsite consumption; and (3) is it principally engaged in business of selling alcohol for onsite consumption.
The facts of any given establishment, from a Whole Foods to a microbrewery, may vary.
Statement: NC Breweries Seek Clarification to Reopen in Phase II:
Raleigh, N.C. – The NC craft beer industry is an integral part of the state’s economy. We manufacture, distribute and sell some of the finest beer in the United States and have been an engine for economic growth in small towns and cities throughout North Carolina, contributing more than $2b to the economy and providing more than 12,000 jobs.
The COVID-19 crisis and subsequent shut down has devastated the industry. While we have been deemed an essential business as part of the beverage supply chain, revenues are down 75-90% industry-wide. Being able to reopen for modified on-premise activities as part of the Governor’s plan in Phase II is instrumental to the survival of the industry.
Our 328 breweries, taprooms and brewpubs have served as leaders in this crisis, working to provide safe and responsible ways for the consuming public to enjoy locally crafted beer. As an industry, our breweries have invested millions in manufacturing and safety equipment. We do not believe our breweries, taprooms or brewpubs meet Executive Order 141’s definition of “bars”, and we are continuing to work with the Governor’s office to clarify this matter.
Throughout the COVID-19 shut-down, the NC craft beer industry has acted in a responsible manner making the safety of our customers and employees our top priority. We have worked with NCDHHS on safety protocols and we have enacted those protocols in accordance with CDC and NCDHHS guidelines, consistent with requirements and guidance for NC restaurants, that would allow our breweries to reopen on a modified basis for onsite consumption, without sacrificing public safety, and allowing for appropriate social distancing and sanitation protocols.
We look forward to getting questions regarding the industry’s status resolved quickly, for the benefit of our craft brewing industry, and the public interest.
Restaurants eager to reopen dining rooms
In-house dining has been closed since March 17 to prevent the spread of COVID-19. That will change at 5 p.m. Friday.
"Of course, we’re happy,” said Alexis Micrahi-Bottero, co-owner of Royal Café and Creperie in Matthews. “We’re happy we’re here, and we’re happy we can open our doors back up to the people who feel comfortable coming back inside."
She said she couldn't wait for her dining room to reopen since it closed because of the pandemic.
"Fortunately for us, our entire operation is up front,” Micrahi-Bottero said. “We don't hide anything. We don't do anything in the back, so people can come in and see their meal being prepared from start to finish."
Frank Scibelli is the owner of the FS Restaurant Group, which includes dining heavyweights, such as Mama Ricottas, Midwood Smokehouse and Yafo Kitchen.
"It's been a lot of variables to deal with,” Scibelli said. “We’re looking forward getting open to some degree."
He said he realizes that some folks would be reluctant to dine out. So in addition to following state guidelines, he hired a hospital-recommended health consultant.
"We don't know everything,” Scibelli said. “We know we don't know everything, so we're gonna find who is very smart in an industry and tell us what to do."
Enrique Urrutia had a long career with a British food safety company. And now he will audit all of Scibelli's restaurants.
"I was surprised when Frank, the president of this chain of restaurants, called me," Urrutia said.
“Not just following, you know, the guidelines given by the state. Also, they want to go beyond that.”
Under Phase 2, restaurants and bars will have to follow a list of guidelines and recommendations to protect customers and staff.
The guidelines focus on social distancing, cloth-face coverings, cleaning and hygiene.
Restaurants will be required to do the following to promote social distancing between staff and customers:
- Arrange tables and seating to have at least six feet of space between customers both indoors and outdoors. Customers sitting at counters should be spaced at least six feet apart.
- No more than 50 percent of maximum occupancy will be allowed inside the building, or 12 people per 1,000 feet if the restaurant does not have a fire code number. The number must be posted in a conspicuous place.
- Post signs reminding customers and staff to social distance and follow their 3 Ws: wearing a face covering, waiting six feet apart and washing hands frequently.
- Put markings on the floor in high-traffic areas, such as cash registers or waiting areas, noting six-feet spacings
Restaurants are encouraged, but not required to do the following:
- Allow no more than six people at a table, unless all people are part of a family from the same household.
- Refrain from using shared tables among multiple parties, unless parties can be spaced six feet apart.
- Require customers to wait outside, with markings to ensure they wait six feet apart.
- Provide hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol at the entrance.
- Educate employees on wearing, safely removing and washing face coverings.
- Install physical barriers at cash registers or food pickup areas where patrons cannot maintain six feet of separation from staff.
- Advise waitstaff to stay six feet away from customers when possible.
- Stagger seating times with reservations or other methods. Stagger employee shifts.
- Ask people to wait in their cars and alert them by phone when their table is ready.
- Provide condiments only when asked or provide single-use condiment packets.
- Continue take-out and delivery options.
- Use rolled utensils, do not preset tables.
- Offer contactless and touchless payment options.
- Sanitize receipt trays, pens and counters between customers
- Designate an ordering area at bars where customers can order at least six feet from other customers at the bar.
CLOTH FACE COVERINGS
Restaurants are strongly encouraged to do the following:
- Ask employees and customers to wear a cloth or disposable face covering when near other people in the restaurant.
- Provide single-use face coverings for employees and customers.
- Share guidance on wearing, removing and washing cloth face coverings
CLEANING AND HYGIENE
Restaurants will be required to do the following to sanitize and prevent the spread of disease:
- Perform ongoing and routine disinfection of high-touch areas and shared objects--such as doors, doorknobs, rails, payment terminals, countertops, tables, receipt trays and condiment holders--with an approved disinfectant and increase disinfection during high traffic times. Booths and dining tables must be disinfected between use and the disinfectant must be allowed to sit for the necessary amount of time recommended by the manufacturer.
- Promote frequent use of handwashing and hand sanitizer for wait/food service staff upon reporting to work and frequently throughout shift. Hand washing is required to at least meet the requirements as specified in the North Carolina Food Code Manual, Sections 2-301.12, 2- 301.14, and 2-301.15.
Restaurants are encouraged, but not required to do the following:
- Check and refill hand sanitizer stations and make sure soap and hand drying materials are available at sinks.
- Use disposable menus, a menu display board, or mobile menus.
- Use single-use or disposable linens. Sanitize cloth linens between customers.
- Avoid offering self-service food or drink options, such as buffets, salad bars and drink stands. If self-serve is used, provide an attendant to monitor social distancing and remove contaminated utensils and food, change and sanitize serving utensils every 30 minutes, have employees plate food for customers, and encourage hand washing and hand sanitizer use among customers.
MONITORING FOR SYMPTOMS
Restaurants will be required to do the following to encourage employees and customers to monitor for signs of illness:
- Conduct daily symptom screening of employees and immediately send symptomatic workers home.
- Post signs at the main entrance asking people who have been sick with cough and/or fever not to enter.
- Employees who have symptoms when they come to work or who develop symptoms during their shift should be immediately separated from other employees and customers and sent home.
Restaurants are encouraged, but not required to do the following:
- Have a plan to remove sick employees from work.
- Establish sick leave policies and expand paid leave.
- Not allow employees who are symptomatic to return to work until they have not had a fever for at least 72 hours, other symptoms have improved and it has been at least 10 days since they first began showing symptoms.
- Require symptomatic employees to wear masks until they leave the restaurant.
- Clean and disinfect after an employee or customer shows symptoms.
- Provide employees with access to helplines including NC211 and Hope4NC.
OTHER RECOMMENDED ACTIONS
- Designate a specific time for customers and employees at higher risk of severe disease to access the restaurant.
- Allow employees to self-identify as high risk and reassign their duties to minimize face-to-face contact with others.
- Combat misinformation with webinars, educations, posters and online messaging.
- Follow CDC guidelines to minimize risk of waterborne illnesses.
- Make sure ventilation systems are working properly and increase circulation of outdoor air as much as possible.
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