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Governor announces he will keep N.C. paused in Phase 2 until Aug. 7: Calls COVID-19 numbers ‘still high, but it’s steady’
Sunday, 19 July 2020 19:39

From Staff Reports

RALEIGH — North Carolina will stay in Phase Two of reopening for at least three more weeks, Gov. Roy Cooper announced during a July 14 news conference.

Cooper’s plans had called for Phase Two possibly ending at 5 p.m. July 17, but, instead, his executive order will remain in effect at least until Aug. 7, the governor asserted.

“Our virus trends are not spiking like some other states,” Cooper said. “We have hospital capacity and our percent positive is still high but it’s steady. However, our numbers are still troubling and they could jump higher in the blink of an eye.”

In late June, Cooper extended Phase Two of the reopening plan to July 17 at the earliest.

Cooper’s announcement came the same day he announced the plan under which the state’s public schools will reopen when most students are expected back Aug. 17. (A separate story on the governor’s school reopening announcements begins on Page A1.)

In determing whether to lift restrictions resulting from the pandemic that have been in place for months, the state monitors several benchmarks, including hospitalizations, positive cases and testing.

Despite efforts to control the spread, the pace of infections has been increasing since May. New coronavirus cases increased 31.8 percent in the first 14 days in July compared to the last 14 days in June.

“North Carolina hospitals consistently report records of COVID-19 patients. The state hit a new record on Tuesdy (July 14), with at least 1,109 people with COVID-19 in hospitals,” The (Raleigh) News & Observer reported. “The state hit a daily record of new coronavirus cases Saturday (July 11).”

More than 440 of the state’s 1,552 COVID-19 deaths have occurred in the last four weeks. North Carolina added 42 people to the death toll on July 14.

On July 13, DHHS reported 67,124 patients presumed to be recovered, according to a weekly report.

On June 26, Cooper mandated masks in public and also delayed a step in the planned gradual relaxation of limits on business and leisure activities.

“He also has vetoed bills that would have allowed bars, gyms, bowling alleys and amusement parks to reopen,” The News & Observer reported. “Republican legislators have criticized the reopening plan as too slow and not taking enough account of safety measures businesses are willing to implement.

“Phase Two allows salons, barbershops, and tattoo parlors to open at 50 percent capacity. Restaurants, which had previously been limited to takeout and delivery, are allowed to open their dining rooms at 50 percent capacity. Mass gatherings are limited to 10 people indoors and 25 outdoors,” the N&O noted.

Cooper said on July 14 that he is troubled by businesses in the state that remain unable to open under Phase Two restrictions and wants to get them operating as soon as possible.

But he noted a steady increase in the number of cases, hospitalizations and emergency room patients with COVID-19 symptoms.

“Those numbers continue to be concerning, and we don’t want to start easing these restrictions with those numbers so high,” the governor said.



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