COVID-19 | NC Executive Orders

COVID-19 | North Carolina Executive Orders

Updated May 20, 2020

Governor Roy Cooper of North Carolina issued a new executive order on May 20 that moves the state into Phase 2 of loosening restrictions.  The Order becomes effective Friday, May 22 at 5 p.m.

On May 5, Gov. Cooper ordered Phase 1 of loosening statewide restrictions to begin Friday, May 8. For more information about the Governor’s path to easing restrictions, click here.

On April 23, Gov. Cooper issued an executive order to extend the current Stay at Home restrictions until 5 p.m. on Friday, May 8.

During the April 23 press conference, Gov. Cooper and DHHS Sec. Cohen discussed the metrics that the Governor will be reviewing to determine when it is appropriate to begin easing restrictions.

On April 24, 2020, Gov. Cooper announced that public schools will remain physically closed through the end of the 2019-2020 school year (remote instruction continues).  The Governor also stated that whether summer schools and summer camps are able to open will depend on whether certain conditions, to be developed, are met.  Finally, the Governor stated that it is unclear at this point how schools will operate at the beginning of the 2020-21 school year and whether they will open physically in the fall, partially open, or continue remote learning for some period of time.

Gov. Cooper originally issued the stay-at-home order effective March 30. The order specifically allowed local governments to adopt greater restrictions than those contained in this order.  Therefore, a business or individual will need to be aware of any local restrictions.

Numerous local governments have begun issuing their own local orders in response to COVID-19. For more information regarding local orders in North Carolina, click here.

Additionally, the Governor has issued several other executive orders in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, all outlined below. (Note: Executive Orders 123, 127, 128 are intentionally omitted – not COVID-19 related)


Executive Order #141 | Phase 2 (Order Text)

  • Issued May 20, 2020 and becomes effective Friday, May 22 at 5:00 p.m.
  • Remains in effect through at least Friday, June 26.
  • Key provisions of the Order are as follows:
    • The Stay at Home order is lifted, but people at high-risk of serious complications Covid-19 are still encouraged to remain at home as much as possible.
    • Individuals are strongly encouraged to maintain social distancing.
    • Worship, religious services, weddings, funerals, and other activities constituting the exercise of First Amendment rights are exempt from all provisions of the Order.
    • Restaurants are allowed to operate for in-person dining, but are limited to 50% of their stated fire capacity.  Restaurant workers are encouraged to wear masks.
    • Personal care services, grooming, and tattoo businesses may reopen, but are limited to 50% of their stated fire capacity.  Workers in these industries are required to wear masks.
    • Indoor and outdoor pools may open, but are limited to 50% of stated fire capacity.
    • Childcare facilities may open and serve all children, but are subject to certain limitations.
    • Day camps and overnight camps are allowed, but are subject to certain limitations.
    • Mass gatherings remain limited.  Indoors, mass gatherings are limited to 10 people.  Outdoors, mass gatherings are limited to 25 people.
    • The following remain closed under the order:
      • Playgrounds.
      • Entertainment and fitness facilities.
      • Bars.
    • Entertainment and sporting events in large venues may occur, but subject to numerous restrictions.
      • Venues must have a seating capacity of at least 500.
      • Spectators are limited to the mass gathering limits – 10 people for indoor venues and 25 people for outdoor venues.
      • The mass gathering limits due not apply to entertainers, performers, athletes, coaches, training and support staff, broadcasting staff and up to two additional employees.
    • State guidance on “Safer at Home” Phase 2

Executive Order #138 | Phase 1 (Order Text)

  • Issued May 5, 2020 and became effective May 8 at 5:00 p.m.
  • State guidance on Phase 1:
  • Summary of Executive Order:
    • The list of allowable activities is expanded. Previously, people were allowed to leave home for health and safety, for necessary supplies and services, for outdoor activity, for certain types of work, and to take care of others.  This order expands that list to include looking for work, to exercise First Amendment rights, to travel between residences, to volunteer, and to attend small outdoor get togethers.
    • Most businesses will be able to open. The order still prohibits the following businesses from opening.
      • Personal care and grooming businesses including barber shops, beauty salons, hair salons, nail salons, tattoo parlors, tanning salons, and massage therapists.
      • Entertainment facilities without a retail or dining component including bingo parlors, bowling alleys, indoor exercise facilities, health clubs indoor/outdoor pools, live performance venues, movie theaters, skating rinks, spas, gaming businesses.  Those facilities that do have a retail or dining component may remain open for those purposes only.
    • Restaurants and bars will still be limited to selling food and beverages for off-premises consumption only. This also applies to other businesses selling food and beverages, like grocery stores, pharmacies, and convenience stores.
    • Retail businesses must take the following steps:
      • Limit customer capacity to no more than 50% of stated fire capacity or 12 customers for every 1,000 square feet of the location’s total square footage.  Currently these limits are 20% of capacity or 5 customers for every 1,000 square feet.
      • Limit occupancy so that customers may remain six feet apart, even this is lower than the limit above.
      • Mark six feet of space in lines at point of sale and other high-traffic areas.
      • Perform frequent and routine cleaning and disinfection.
      • Provide hand sanitizer whenever available.
      • Conduct daily symptom screening of workers, immediately send symptomatic workers home, and have a plan for immediately isolating workers if symptoms develop.
      • Post signage about social distancing requirements.
    • Retail businesses are encouraged to do the following:
      • Direct workers to stay six feet away from each other and customers to the extent possible.
      • Provide designated times for high-risk populations.
      • Develop and use systems for alternative ordering, pick-up, and delivery options.
      • High-volume stores are encouraged to use acrylic or plastic shields, mark designated entrances and exits, and provide assistance with routing through stores.
    • All businesses are encouraged to do the following:
      • Continue to promote telework.
      • Reduce the number of people in the workplace by providing more space between work stations or staggering shifts.
      • Limit face-to-face meetings to no more than 10 workers.
      • Promote hygiene.
      • Recommend workers wear cloth face masks.
      • Make accommodations for workers at high risk of severe illness.
      • Encourage sick workers to stay home and provide support for that with a sick leave policy.
      • Follow CDC guidance if a worker is diagnosed with Covid-19.
      • Provide information to workers.
    • State parks and trails may reopen, but must follow the requirements applicable to retail businesses.
    • Playgrounds must remain closed.
    • Childcare centers must continue to follow guidance from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).
    • Day camps must operate in compliance with DHHS guidelines. Day camps may not allow sports or other activities where social distancing can not be maintained.  Day camps may provide sports where social distancing can be maintained.
    • Day camps may operate at a facility that is otherwise closed to the public (such as a bowling alley or pool), but the facility may operate for that purpose only.
    • Overnight camps may not operate.
    • Schools will remain physically closed for the remainder of the 2019-20 school year.
    • Local school boards will determine whether and how to conduct graduations and other year-end ceremonies. Those events must be conducted in accordance with Executive Orders and guidance from DHHS and the Department of Public Instruction (DPI).
    • Mass gatherings are still limited to 10 persons. Mass gatherings do not include gatherings for health and safety, to look for and obtain goods and services, for work, for worship or exercise of First Amendment rights, or for receiving governmental services. Mass gatherings do not include normal operations at airports, bus and train stations or stops, medical facilities, shopping malls, and shopping centers.
    • If possible, allowable mass gatherings should take place outdoors.
    • Mass gatherings for funerals are allowed up to 50 people.
    • Strict restrictions continue for skilled nursing facilities and are strongly encouraged for other types of long-term care facilities.
    • Local governments may generally continue to impose stricter requirements. However, local governments may not restrict federal or State government operations and may not set different retail requirements.
    • The prohibition against price gouging is extended until May 22, 2020.

Executive Order #135 | Extensions (Order Text)

  • Issued April 23, 2020 and became effective immediately
  • Extends current stay at home order until  at least 5:00 p.m. on Friday, May 8. The order could be extended further based on conditions at the time
  • Orders limiting mass gatherings, requiring social distancing, and restricting visitation at long term care facilities

Executive Order #134 | UI Furlough (Order Text)

  • Issued April 20, 2020
  • Allows businesses flexibility to make payments that assist their employees during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Executive Order #131 | Retail/Long-Term Care Facilities/Unemployment Insurance (Order Text)

  • Issued April 9, 2020
  • The order imposes new social distancing requirements on retail establishments that remain open.
    • Retail establishments include any business in which customers enter to purchase goods or services.  This includes businesses like banks in addition to traditional retail establishments.
    • Occupancy is limited to no more than 20% of the stated fire capacity or five customers for every 1000 square feet of the location’s total square footage.
    • Establishments must post staff at store entrances and exits to enforce the new occupancy limit.
    • Establishments must mark six feet of spacing at cash registers and other high-traffic areas and in a line outside the establishment.
    • Establishments must perform frequent and routine cleanings of all high-touch areas.
    • The order overrides any local order that set a different standard for maximum occupancy.
    • This section becomes effective April 13, 2020 at 5 p.m. and remains in effect for 30 days unless modified or lifted.
  • The order makes the following recommendations for retail establishments, but does not require them.
    • Establishments are encouraged to provide cloth face masks to employees that cannot consistently maintain a six-foot distance from other employees or customers.
    • Establishments should instruct employees to stay at home if sick.
    • Establishments are encouraged to mark six-foot distances in high-traffic areas that are limited to employees.
    • Establishments are encouraged to make hand sanitizer available and to have cleaning supplies available for shopping carts.
    • Establishments are encouraged to have designated shopping times for high-risk groups.
    • Establishments are encouraged to develop and use online ordering, curbside pickup, and no-contact checkout.
    • High-volume establishments are encouraged to use acrylic shields at cash registers and to provide assistance with routing through aisles.
  • The order imposes new restrictions with respect to long-term care facilities.   Skilled nursing facilities are required to comply with the following requirements and other long-term care facilities are encouraged to do so:
    • Prevent staff who are ill from coming to or remaining at work.
    • Screen all staff at the beginning of their shift for fever and respiratory symptoms.
    • Cancel communal dining and all group activities.
    • Implement universal use of facemasks for all staff.
    • Actively monitor all residents for fever and respiratory symptoms.
    • Notify the local health department immediately of any new cases among residents and of any cluster of cases among residents and staff.
    • This section of the order becomes effective at 5 p.m., April 10 and remains in place until lifted.
  • The order contains the following provisions with respect to unemployment insurance.
    • Allows the Division of Employment Security to waive some requirements with respect to attached claims if it will speed up processing of benefits.
    • This section is effective retroactively to April 1, 2020 and remains in place for 60 days unless modified or lifted.

Executive Order #130 | Meeting North Carolina’s Health and Human Services Needs (Order Text)

  • Issued April 8, 2020 and becomes effective immediately.  Remains in place for 60 days (with certain exceptions for provisions with a later expiration date) unless modified.
  • Grants the HHS Secretary the authority temporarily to waive or modify any legal or regulatory constraint that would prevent or impair the following:
    • Increasing health care facilities’ bed capacity.
    • Relocating beds from a currently operating facility to another physical location.
    • Adding dialysis stations to an existing center or hospital and relocating dialysis stations to another physical space.
    • Acquisition of medical imaging equipment by or on behalf of a hospital.
    • Allowing an ambulatory surgical facility to operate as a temporary hospital.
  • Grants the HHS Secretary the authority temporarily to waive, modify, or impose new regulations on child care facilities.
  • Provides that child care facilities may provide services only to a) children of employees of essential businesses, b) children receiving child welfare services, and c) children who are homeless or living in unstable or unsafe living arrangements.
  • Grants each professional health care licensure board the authority temporarily to:
    • Allow persons to provide care if they are licensed in another state, territory, or the District of Columbia.
    • Allow persons to provide care if they are retired or have inactive licenses.
    • Allowing skilled, but unlicensed volunteers to provide care.
    • Allowing students at an appropriate stage of study to provide care.
  • Provides of a limitation of liability for emergency management workers, including persons licensed or authorized to provide health care services.
  • Grants the HHS Secretary the authority temporarily to waive or modify the expiration date of transitional food establishment permits and of analyst permits related to blood alcohol testing.
  • Grants the HHS Secretary the authority temporarily to waive or modify any regulatory constraints that would prevent or impair the continued provision of MH/DD/SAS Services or providing these services via telehealth.
  • Grants the HHS Secretary the authority temporarily to waive or modify any regulatory constraints that would prevent or impair providing PACE services in an in-home setting or other in-home care services.
  • Grants the HHS Secretary the authority temporarily to waive or modify certain regulations with respect to the State/County Special Assistance program

Executive Order #129 | Law Enforcement Training Requirements Flexibility (Order Text)

  • Issued April 7, 2020, became effective immediately and lasts until May 7.
  • Allows a waiver of requirements that certain law enforcement training be completed “during consecutive calendar weeks”.

Executive Order #125 | Authorizing and Encouraging Remote Shareholder Meetings (Order Text)

  • Issued April 1, 2020 and became effective immediately.

Executive Order #124 | Utilities Evictions and Financial Services (Order Text)

  • Issued March 31, 2020, and became effective immediately.
  • Utilities service providers (electric, natural gas, water, or wastewater):
    • Prohibited from terminating service.
    • Prohibited from imposing late fees.
    • Required to allow customers to pay arrearages over a six-month period after the order terminates.
    • Encouraged to reconnect previously disconnected service.
    • Required to work with State agencies to publicize payment assistance programs.
    • Required to provide notice of these provisions to their customers.
    • This section remains in effective for 60 days.
  • Cable, telecommunications and related services:
    • Urged to follow the provisions related to utilities.
    • Urged to lift or greatly expand data caps.
  • Eviction proceedings:
    • Provided guidance on orders by the Chief Justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court with respect to evictions.
    • Pursuant to the Chief Justice’s orders, no new eviction proceedings may commence until the expiration date of the orders – currently April 17, 2020.
    • During this time period, no new rental bonds are due.
    • Urged Clerks of Superior Court and Sheriffs to delay implementation of evictions that have already been ordered.
    • Encouraged property owners to work with tenants to implement payment plans to avoid evictions.
    • Encouraged lenders to work with property owners with respect to loan payment flexibility to reduce the pressure to pursue eviction of tenants.
  • Bank and mortgage companies’ customers:
    • Urged to waive or reduce a number of fees.
    • Urged to extend new credit, where prudent.
    • Urged to increase daily ATM cash withdrawal limits.
    • Urged to increase credit card limits for creditworthy customers.
    • Urged to offer payment accommodations.
    • Urged to cease reporting derogatory information to credit reporting agencies.
    • Urged to forbear mortgage payments for at least 180 days and give mortgagors the option to extend loan terms by that number of days without a lump sum payment due at the end of the forbearance period.
    • Urged to postpone foreclosures and evictions for at least 90 days.

Executive Order #122 | State Surplus Property (Order Text)

  • Issued March 30, 2020, and became effective immediately.
  • Authorizes the disposal of surplus State property by donation or transfer to any State agency, political subdivision of the State, or public school system in the State.
  • Authorizes the Secretary of Administration to approve donations or transfers of personal protective equipment and other healthcare supplies.

Executive Order #121 | Stay at Home Order (Order Text)

FAQs for Stay at Home Order

Key provisions of the order are as follows:

  1. Residents are ordered to stay at home, with the following exceptions
    1. To engage in activities necessary for the health and safety of the individual and the individual’s household or family (including pets).  Examples of these activities include receiving medical treatment or obtaining medical supplies (like refilling a prescription).
    2. To obtain necessary supplies and services.  This includes things like trips to the grocery store, trips to the office supply store to enable one to work from home, and trips to hardware stores to obtain supplies to maintain the function and safety of the home.
    3. To engage in outdoor activity like walking, running, hiking, or biking.  Even in these cases, social distancing must be maintained.  In addition, most of the orders have specifically ordered that playgrounds be closed due to the likelihood of transmission from multiple people touching the same equipment.
    4. To perform work at specific types of essential businesses.
    5. To care for a family member, friend, or pet in another household.
    6. To travel to and from a place of worship.
    7. To travel to receive goods or services from an essential businesses.
    8. Travel related to child custody or visitation agreements.
    9. To volunteer with organizations providing charitable and social services.
  2. All non-essential businesses must cease operations.
  3. Essential businesses should direct employees to work from home to the maximum extent possible.
  4. Essential businesses include:
    1. Businesses that can conduct activities while maintaining social distancing requirements.
    2. Businesses operating in sectors identified in the March 19, 2020, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Cybersecurity Infrastructure & Security Agency (CISA), Memorandum on Identification of Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers During COVID-19 Response.
    3. Healthcare and public health operations
    4. Human services operations
    5. Essential infrastructure operations
    6. Essential government operations
    7. Stores that sell groceries and medicine.
    8. Food and beverage production and agriculture.
    9. Organizations that provide essential services for the economically disadvantaged or otherwise needy people.
    10. Religious entities
    11. Media
    12. Gas stations and other transportation support businesses, such as auto-part stores and auto-repair.
    13. Financial institutions like banks.  Sometimes these operations are limited to services that cannot be provided remotely.
    14. Hardware and supply stores.
    15. Critical trades, such as plumbers, electricians, HVAC technicians, and security.
    16. Mail, shipping, and delivery services.
    17. Educational institutions, but only for purposes of facilitating distance learning, performing critical research, or performing essential functions.
    18. Laundry services.
    19. Restaurants, but for off-premises consumption only (i.e. take-out and delivery).
    20. Businesses that produce, distribute, or sell supplies that facilitate working from home.
    21. Business that sell, produce, or distribute products and services that enable other essential businesses to operate.
    22. Transportation services like airlines, taxis, and mobile ride-hailing companies.
    23. Home-based care services.
    24. Residential facilities and shelters.
    25. Certain professional services.
    26. Manufacture, distribution and supply chain for critical products and industries.
    27. Defense and military contractors
    28. Childcare services, often with limitations.
    29. Hotels and motels.
    30. Funeral services.
    31. Electronic retailers that cell communications technology
    32. Lawn and garden equipment retailers
    33. Bookstores that sell educational material.
    34. Beer, wine, and liquor stores.
    35. Retail functions of gas stations and convenience stores.
    36. Retail located within healthcare facilities.
    37. Pet and feed stores.
  5. Businesses excluded from the list of essential businesses may direct requests to be included as an essential business to the Department of Revenue.  (NOTE:  There is no requirement that a business have a specific designation as an essential business.  This is intended to create a process for businesses that do not fall under any of the existing categories to nonetheless be designated as an essential business.)
  6. Non-essential businesses may conduct minimum basic operations, which are defined as:
    1. The minimum necessary activities to maintain the value of the business’s inventory, preserve the condition o the business’s physical plant and equipment, ensure security, process payroll and employee benefits, or related functions.
    2. The minimum necessary activities to facilitate employees of the business being able to continue to work remotely from their residences.
  7. Mass gatherings are prohibited.  For these purposes, a mass gathering is more than 10 people.
    1. Funerals are permitted to include no more than 50 people.
  8. Local orders ARE NOT preempted.  Local governments may impose greater restrictions than those imposed by this order.

Executive Order #120 | Additional Limitations on Mass Gathering; Long-term Care Facilities; Extension of School Closure (Order Text)

  • Issued March 23, 2020.
  • Prohibited mass gatherings of more than 50 people.
  • Specifically closed certain types of businesses including some amusement venues (live performance venues, movie theaters, etc.) and various types of businesses that require close physical contact (hair salons, massage parlors, spas, nail salons, tattoo and massage parlors, etc.).
  • Mandated the continuance of certain local government services.
  • Restricted visitation at long-term care facilities.
  • Extended the closure of public schools through May 15, 2020.

Executive Order #119 | Motor Vehicle Operations; Authority of DHHS (Order Text)

  • Issued March 20, 2020.
  • Allowed the DHHS Secretary to waive certain provisions related to childcare facilities.
  • Made additional alterations with respect to transportation provisions.

Executive Order #118 | Limiting Operations of Restaurants; Unemployment Insurance (Order Text)

  • Issued March 17, 2020.
  • Closed bars and restaurants for on-premises consumption.
  • Made various changes with respect to the unemployment insurance program.

Executive Order #117 | Prohibiting Mass Gathering; K-12 School Closure (Order Text)

  • Issued March 14, 2020.
  • Prohibited mass gatherings of more than 100 people.
  • Mandated public school closure from March 16 until March 30.
  • Urged people to maintain social distancing.

Executive Order #116 | State of Emergency (Order Text)

  • Issued March 10, 2020.
  • This was the first order issued by the Governor and in it he declared a State of Emergency with respect to the Covid-19 epidemic.  The order included provisions with respect to the following:
    • Waived several State provisions with respect to transportation.
    • Created a Covid-19 task force.
    • Authorized the hiring of temporary State employees and authorized restrictions on State employee officials travel.
    • Ordered the State Lab to maximize testing capacity.
    • Authorized right of entry and disinfection of DHHS and local health departments.
    • Ordered cleaning of certain facilities.
    • Waived licensure requirements for healthcare personnel licensed in another State.
    • Made various orders with respect to funding.
    • Waived certain purchasing and contract provisions.
    • Made certain changes with respect to Medicaid

North Carolina COVID-19 Resources