COVID-19 | NC Path Forward to Easing Restrictions
Updated September 1, 2020
Governor Roy Cooper of North Carolina issued a new executive order on September 1 that initiates Phase 2.5 of loosened restrictions effective at 5 p.m, Friday, September 4, 2020. These provisions continue in effect until 5 p.m. on Friday, October 2, 2020.
Gov. Cooper first moved the state into Phase 2 on May 20. He later added more health and safety modifications, including requiring face coverings to be worn in most public settings and prohibiting the sale of alcoholic beverages for on-premises consumption after 11 p.m. The prior Phase 1 executive order became effective Friday, May 8.
Gov. Cooper originally issued a stay-at-home order effective March 30. 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.
To read more about Gov. Cooper’s executive orders, click here.
At a press conference April 23, Gov. Roy Cooper and DHHS Sec. Cohen announced the metrics that the Governor is using to determine when it is appropriate to begin easing restrictions. Governor Cooper also offered a broad 3-phase plan for loosening restrictions.
The metrics that the Governor and Secretary Cohen will be evaluating include the following:
- A decrease in the number of cases presenting with COVID-19-like symptoms over 14 days. This is the total number of cases that bear these symptoms, which is a broader category of cases than cases with a confirmed positive test result. North Carolina is currently seeing a significant decline here.
- A decrease or sustained leveling in the number of new lab-confirmed cases over 14 days. North Carolina has seen no decrease at this point. Currently, this number is still increasing but beginning to level in North Carolina. North Carolina is adopting a less restrictive standard than proposed by the White House. The White House has recommended that this metric should be decreasing and does not include a sustained leveling.
- A decrease in the number of positive test results as a percentage of all tests over 14 days. This number is not currently declining, though there has been some improvement over the last two days.
- A decrease or sustained leveling in the number of hospitalizations over 14 days. This number is not currently declining, but has begun to level off. North Carolina is adopting a less restrictive standard than proposed by the White House. The White House has recommended that this metric should be decreasing and does not include a sustained leveling off.
- The ability to conduct 5,000 to 7,000 tests per day. North Carolina has just reached this level of capacity.
- The ability to conduct adequate contact tracing for confirmed positive patients. The State needs 500 individuals to perform this function but currently has only 250.
- A 30-day supply of personal protection equipment. The State currently has a 30-day supply with respect to some items, but not with respect to gowns and N95 masks
The Governor outlined a 3-phase plan for loosening restrictions. The plan depends on continued improvement of the metrics discussed above. The length of any of the phases below could be adjusted depending on conditions at the time. There is also the possibility that restrictions could be increased again if there is a worsening with respect to any of the metrics discussed above.
- Phase 1 (Executive Order #138)
- Issued May 5, 2020 and becomes effective May 8 at 5:00 p.m.
- State guidance on Phase 1:
- Select modifications are listed below. For more detail about the executive order and other modifications, click here.
- Expands list of allowable activities.
- Most businesses will be able to reopen with adherence to state guidelines.
- Playgrounds remain closed, but parks and trails may reopen under guidelines.
- Mass gatherings are still limited to 10 people and should take place outdoors if possible (50 people for funerals).
- Local governments may impose stricter requirements but may not restrict state/federal government operations and may not set different retail requirements.
- Phase 2 (Executive Order #141)
- Issued May 20, 2020 and becomes effective Friday, May 22.
- Remains in effect through at least Friday, June 26.
- State guidance on “Safer at Home” Phase 2
- Select provisions are listed below. For more detail about the executive order and other modifications, click here.
- The Stay at Home order is lifted, but people at high-risk are still encouraged to remain at home.
- 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 subject to certain limitations.
- Indoors, mass gatherings are limited to 10 people. Outdoors, mass gatherings are limited to 25 people.
- Playgrounds, fitness facilities and bars remain closed under the order.
- Entertainment and sporting events in large venues may occur, but subject to numerous restrictions.
- Phase 2 – Extension (Executive Order #147)
- Issued June 24, 2020
- The Order contains two main provisions. First, Phase 2 of restrictions will be extended for three weeks until 5 p.m. on Friday, July 17, 2020. Second, the Order requires face coverings to be worn in most public settings. The face covering requirement becomes effective at 5 p.m. on Friday, June 26, 2020 and continues until 5 p.m. on Friday, July 17, 2020 unless repealed, extended or otherwise amended. Key provisions of the face covering requirement are as follows:
- Face coverings must be worn in the following settings:
- Retail businesses. All workers when they are or may be within six feet of another person and all customers when they are inside and may be within six feet of other people.
- Restaurants. All workers when they are or may be within six feet of another person and all customers when not at their table.
- Personal care, grooming, and tattoo businesses. All workers when they are or may be within six feet of another person and all customers when they are inside and may be within six feet of other people (unless they are receiving services that require the face not be covered, such as shaving).
- Child care facilities and camps. All people when they are or may be within six feet of another person.
- State government. Agencies under the jurisdiction of the Governor must comply with the same requirements as retail businesses. Other State and local governments are encouraged to do so.
- Transportation. All workers and customers when they are or may be within six feet of another person. This applies to all public or private transportation (mass transit, airports, bus and train stations, taxis, ride-sharing services, etc.) other than people traveling with household members or friends in a personal vehicle.
- High-Density Occupational Setting Where Social Distancing is Difficult. All workers when they are or may be within six feet of another person. This applies to manufacturing, construction, and certain agricultural businesses.
- Meat or Poultry Processing plants. All workers when they are or may be within six feet of another person. These must be surgical masks, if available.
- Long-term care facilities. All workers when they are or may be within six feet of another person. These must be surgical masks, if available.
- Other health care settings. These facilities must follow CDC requirements.
- Exceptions to the face covering requirement exist for the individuals that fall into one or more of the following groups. Individuals are not required to produce any proof that they fall into one of these categories. The Order encourages people to be truthful about whether they satisfy one of these conditions.
- Should not wear a face covering due to any medical or behavioral condition or disability (including, but not limited to, any person who has trouble breathing, or is unconscious or incapacitated, or is otherwise unable to put on or remove the face covering without assistance);
- Is under 11 years of age;
- Is actively eating or drinking;
- Is strenuously exercising;
- Is seeking to communicate with someone who is hearing-impaired in a way that requires the mouth to be visible;
- Is giving a speech for a broadcast or to an audience;
- Is working at home or is in a personal vehicle;
- Is temporarily removing his or her Face Covering to secure government or medical services or for identification purposes;
- Would be at risk from wearing a Face Covering at work, as determined by local, state, or federal regulations or workplace safety guidelines;
- Has found that his or her Face Covering is impeding visibility to operate equipment or a vehicle; or
- Is a child whose parent, guardian, or responsible person has been unable to place the Face Covering safely on the child’s face.
- Enforcement of face covering requirements.
- Citations may be issued only to businesses or organizations that fail to enforce the requirement.
- Law enforcement is not authorized to enforce the requirement against individuals.
- Law enforcement may, however, enforce any other laws against an individual – such as trespassing if a business or organization refuses entry to an individual who refuses to wear a mask and the individual refuse to leave.
- Face coverings must be worn in the following settings:
- In addition to these provisions, the Order also:
- Directs the State Health Director to issue a standing order to allow individuals who meet DHHS criteria for testing to access and undergo testing for COVID-19.
- Amends the restrictions related to long-term care facilities.
- Extends the period in which the price-gouging laws apply until 5 p.m. on Friday, July 17, 2020.
- State resources:
- Phase 2.5
- Issued September 1, 2020
- Becomes effective at 5 p.m, Friday, September 4, 2020 and lasts until 5 p.m. on Friday, October 2, 2020, unless otherwise adjusted.
- Key provisions of this Order include the following:
- Gyms and other fitness facilities may open. These facilities must limit the number of participants (no more than 30% of stated fire capacity in indoor areas, subject to other restrictions), require face coverings of customers and workers, ensure social distancing, disinfect all equipment between users, and increase disinfection during peak times.
- Museums and aquariums may open. These facilities must limit the number of participants (no more than 50% of stated fire capacity, subject to other restrictions), require face coverings of customers and workers, ensure social distancing, and perform frequent and routine environmental cleaning.
- Mass gatherings. The limits on mass gatherings are increased to 25 people indoors and 50 people outdoors. For parks, trails, and beaches, these limits apply to the number of people within a single group.
- Playgrounds may open. Indoor playgrounds must comply with the requirements for gyms and fitness facilities.
- Drive-in events are not subject to mass gathering rules if participants all stay within their cars.
- Bars and entertainment facilities (such as movie theaters, arcades, amusement parks, and pool halls) must remain closed. These types of facilities must remain closed even if they are located within an establishment that is allowed to open.
- The period in which the price-gouging law remains in effect is extended until 5 p.m. on October 2,2020
- State Resources
- Phase 3
- This would begin four to six weeks after Phase 2, if key metrics are met.
- The capacity limitations would be increased for restaurants, bars, gyms, salons, houses of worship, entertainment venues, and other businesses.
- The limit on mass gatherings would be increased.
- Restrictions would remain in place for long-term care facilities.
Gov. Roy Cooper first announced his road map to reopen North Carolina April 15, 2020. The action plan included three main pillars in the path forward to easing distancing restrictions – testing, tracing and trends. In a statement, Gov. Cooper said that restrictions will be eased over a period of time, but there will have to be a “new normal” until there is a viable vaccine to prevent a second spike that could overwhelm hospitals.
NC Action Plan Resources
- Press Release: Governor Cooper Shares Path Forward for North Carolina
- Slide Deck: North Carolina Action Plan “Staying Ahead of the Curve”
- Raleigh News & Observer: NC Gov. Cooper: ‘Testing, tracing, trends’ need work before businesses, schools reopen
- WFAE: Cooper: Progress Needed Before NC Coronavirus Restrictions Eased
- WSOCTV: Loosening of stay-at-home restrictions will likely happen gradually, experts say
- Triangle Business Journal: Gov. Roy Cooper envisions incremental transition to ‘new normal’ in North Carolina
MVA Public Affairs will continue to update this page as more information becomes available