North Carolina stay-at-home order eased with Phase 1 of reopening

CHARLOTTE — North Carolina entered Phase 1 of reopening on Friday, and residents are now able to frequent reopening businesses and parks as Gov. Roy Cooper’s modified statewide stay-at-home order to address COVID-19 took effect.

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More North Carolina businesses could be open starting Friday at 5 p.m. as long as they limit customer occupancy. All but one state park was able to reopen starting Saturday.

[Read Frequently Asked Questions about the order]

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.

Restaurants are still barred from offering dine-in options for at least another two weeks. And, barbershops, gyms and movie theaters will remain closed.

“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.”

Child care centers will be allowed to re-enroll children under strict cleaning requirements. Nursing home visitor restrictions will be in place. State parks will be allowed to open.

Cooper and state health officials are urging people to remain vigilant in keeping their distance and washing their hands.

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.

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Cooper said the state could transition into Phase 2 -- which would include lifting the stay-at-home order and allowing people inside bars and restaurants -- as early as May 22.

Below are answers to Frequently Asked Questions from the State of North Carolina

  • Phase 1 begins on Friday, May 8, 2020 at 5 p.m. and remains in place until 5 p.m. on Friday, May 22, 2020.
  • The Stay at Home order has not been lifted. People should continue to stay at home. Executive Order No. 138 increases the number of reasons people are allowed to leave. All North Carolina residents should continue to stay at home except for the purposes outlined in the order.
  • Anyone who is feeling sick should stay home and leave the house only to seek health care or for some other necessary reason.
  • COVID-19 is a highly contagious virus, and state officials will continue to monitor key metrics. COVID-19 spreads easily from person to person, especially indoors or if people come in close contact for more than ten minutes. All residents should continue to exercise extreme caution when in public.

Phase 1 is different than the current Stay at Home Order in the following ways:

  • Eliminates the distinction between essential and non-essential businesses;
  • Allows most retailers (with exceptions) that can comply with specific requirements to open at 50 percent capacity;
  • Allows people to leave home for non-essential goods or services;
  • Encourages state parks and trails that are closed to open;
  • Specifically allows people to gather outdoors while following social distancing guidelines with up to ten people;
  • Opens child care to working families; and
  • Encourages North Carolinians to wear cloth face coverings when outside the home in order to protect others.

The following does not change in Phase 1 from the Stay at Home Order:

  • A Stay at Home order remains in place;
  • Mass gatherings are generally limited to no more than ten people;
  • Teleworking is encouraged;
  • Social distancing, hand hygiene, and other methods to slow the spread of CVID-19 should be practiced, including staying at least six feet apart;
  • Restaurants and bars remain closed for dine-in service;
  • Personal care and grooming businesses, including barbershops, beauty, nail, and tanning salons, and tattoo parlors, remain closed;
  • Entertainment facilities, including movie theaters, bowling alleys, and performance venues, remain closed;
  • Fitness facilities such as health clubs and gyms remain closed;
  • People may leave their homes to obtain medical services, obtain goods and services, engage in outdoor exercise, take care of others or volunteer;
  • Playgrounds remain closed;
  • Open retail businesses must meet certain requirements to ensure the safety of their employees and customers; and
  • Visitation continues to be banned at long-term care facilities, except for certain compassionate care situations.

North Carolinians may leave their homes for the following allowable activities during Phase 1:

  • Work at any business, nonprofit, government, or other organization that is not closed by an Executive Order, or seek employment;
  • Take care of health and safety needs, including to seek emergency medical services, obtain medical supplies and medication, or visit a health care professional or veterinarian;
  • Receive goods, services, or supplies from any business or operation that is not closed by an Executive Order;
  • Engage in outdoor activities, including to walk, hike, run, golf, hunt, fish, or hike outdoors;
  • Take care of others, including assisting a family member, friend or pet, or attend weddings or funerals;
  • Worship or exercise First Amendment rights, outdoors and following social distancing guidelines;
  • Travel between places of residence, including child custody or visitation arrangements;
  • Volunteer with organizations that provide charitable and social services;
  • Gather at other people’s homes with no more than ten people outdoors while following social distancing guidelines; and
  • Provide or receive government services.

Restaurants will remain closed for dine-in meals. Take-out, drive-through, and delivery services continue to be allowed.

Shopping malls are open to the public. However, all congregation areas including food courts will remain closed. Shoppers are limited to going into retail locations only.

All retail businesses must follow these requirements:

  • Direct customers and staff to stay at least six feet apart except at point of sale if applicable;
  • Limit occupancy to not more than 50 percent of stated fire capacity and ensure that social distancing of six feet apart if possible;
  • Mark six feet of spacing in lines at point of sale and in other high-traffic customer areas;
  • Perform frequent and routine environmental cleaning and disinfection of high-touch areas with an EPA-approved disinfectant of COVID-19;
  • Provide, whenever available, hand sanitizer stations, and ensure soap and hand drying materials are available at sinks;
  • Conduct daily symptom screening of employee before entering the workplace and immediately send symptomatic workers home;
  • Have a plan in place to immediately isolate an employee from work if symptoms develop; and
  • Post signage at the main entrances to remind people about social distancing guidelines, to request people who are or have been recently symptomatic not to enter, and to notify customers of the reduced store capacity.

Retail businesses are also strongly encouraged to:

  • Direct workers to stay at least six feet apart from one another and from customers, to the greatest extent possible;
  • Provide designated times for seniors and other high-risk populations to access services; and
  • Develop and use systems that allow for online, email, or telephone ordering, no-contact curbside or drive-through pickup or home delivery, and contact-free checkout.

High-volume retail businesses, such as grocery stores and pharmacies, are strongly encouraged to:

  • Install acrylic or plastic shields at cash registers;
  • Clearly mark designated entry and exit points; and
  • Provide assistance with routing through aisles in the store.

The Mecklenburg County Stay at Home Call Center will be closing on Friday, May 8 at 6 p.m. Residents with questions about the North Carolina plan can call 211. For full details, see North Carolina Executive Order No. 138 and the associated Frequently Asked Questions. See the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Service’s website for additional COVID-19 guidance.

Click here to view a chart of what Phase 1 includes.