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N.C. moves to ‘modest’ Phase 2 amid pandemic: Plan opens eateries, but bars, gyms stay closed
Tuesday, 02 June 2020 16:31

From Staff Reports

RALEIGH — North Carolina shifted into Phase 2 of Gov. Roy Cooper’s three-part plan to gradually ease coronavirus restrictions at 5 p.m. May 22, Cooper announced during a May 20 press briefing. 

However, due to rising case counts, the changes enacted by Executive Order 141 will be “more modest” than originally intended, Cooper said. 

Phase 2 officially lifted the stay-at-home order, replacing it with what Cooper described as a “Safer At Home” directive.

“Just because you can go more places, doesn’t mean you should,” Cooper said. 

(Following the governor’s Phase 2 directive, the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners has made face coverings mandatory for all individuals 12 years of age and older in all indoor public commercial facilities, including libraries and public transit.)

The Phase 2 changes enabled restaurants to return to dine-in service in time for Memorial Day weekend, along with public pools at 50 percent capacity.

Phase 2 will be the longest yet, lasting a minimum of five weeks (through at least June 26), Secretary of North Carolina Department of Health of Human Service Dr. Mandy Cohen said.

Under the governor’s reopening plan in the “best-case scenario” timeline, which he presented when he outlined the phases on April 23, North Carolina residents went through an additional two weeks of Stay-at-Home, April 23 to May 8; and two weeks of Phase 1, May 8 to May 22. 

Cooper has reiterated that if trends in new case numbers or hospitalizations worsen, he will reimpose some pandemic restrictions or even return the state to another phase if public health officials advise it. 

Meanwhile, Cooper on May 26 dismissed President Donald Trump’s May 25 series of tweets threatening to move the Republican National Convention from Charlotte, if the governor fails to give clearance for a full-capacity gathering. Trump, a Republican, raised the spectre that Cooper, a Democrat, is playing politics in his delayed reopening.

The convention is scheduled Aug. 24-27 in the Spectrum Center, which seats 20,200 people. Trump said he needs a decision from Cooper within a week, for a June 1 deadline.

“I’m not surprised by anything I see on Twitter,” Cooper was quoted as saying by Charlotte television station WSOC on May 27. “It’s OK for political conventions to be political, but pandemic response cannot be.”

In what has been described widely by the news media as an “audacious move,” the GOP governors of Georgia and Florida each have offered Trump the opportunity to shift the convention to their states, including allowing activity unimpeded by the pandemic, if Cooper fails to allow the Charlotte convention to operate at full capacity.

“The governor (Cooper) said state health officials will continue to work with convention organizers to draft guidelines that will ensure the event can be conducted safely during the coronavirus pandemic,” WSOC reported.

Cooper later added, “I supported having the convention in North Carolina. But we have to put the health and safety of North Carolinians as the guiding star in this process, and we hope to continue the discussions and look forward to those discussions with the RNC later on this weekend and into next week.”

WSOC concluded, “For months, Republican leaders’ public posture has been that the party’s national convention, where Trump will be formally nominated in August, is ‘full steam ahead.’ But on Memorial Day, the president appeared to hamstring convention planning by threatening to pull the event from Charlotte because of the governor’s COVID-19 restrictions.”

Following are changes allowed uner Cooper’s Phase 2:

• Stay-at-home order lifted with strong encouragement for vulnerable populations to continue staying at home.

• Limited opening of restaurants and other businesses that can follow strict safety protocols while operating at reduced capacity.

• Personal care, grooming and tattoo businesses can reopen at 50 percent capacity and with recommendations for waiting. This includes but is not limited to barbershops, beauty salons (waxing, hair removal, etc), hair salons, nail salons, tattoo parlors, tanning salons and massage therapists. 

• Swimming pools open at 50 percent capacity. 

• Gatherings of up to 10 people indoors, 25 outdoors as long as social distancing is observed. 

• Rigorous restrictions on nursing homes and congregant care settings.

Meanwhule, as of 11 a.m. May 26, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services reported 24,140 lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 statewide. 

“That’s an increase of 0.7 percent from the previous day’s total,” the Asheville Citizen Times noted on May 28. “However, the state saw its highest one-day increase in positive tests over Memorial Day weekend, when 1,107 cases were reported May 23. “

The NCDHHS reported a 766 deaths associated with lab-tested COVID-19 statewide.

“The death toll nearly doubled in Buncombe County over Memorial Day weekend, jumping from eight reported on the afternoon of May 22 to 15 on the morning of May 25,” the ACT reported, adding that “It’s important to note that the added deaths didn’t necessarily occur in the days between data updates.”

As of just before 6 p.m. May 26, Buncombe had reported 279 cases of the illness in residents, including 19 deaths.

“A state report on cases in congregant living settings updated on May 26 listed 13 resident deaths at Aston Park Health Care Center in southwest Asheville, and one at Deerfield Episcopal Retirement Community,” the ACT noted.



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