RALEIGH, N.C. (WGHP/WAVY/WNCN) — North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper announced on Tuesday that he signed an executive order moving the state into Phase 1 of easing restrictions.

The order begins at 5 p.m. on Friday, May 8.

Phase 1 means that there will no longer be a distinction between essential and non-essential businesses.

A modified stay-at-home order will remain in place until this new executive order expires May 22.

“But if our indicators are not in the right place, we’ll extend Phase 1 longer than two weeks. We are easing restrictions in a data-driven way,” Cooper said.

In Phase 1:

  • Most businesses can reopen
  • Retail businesses can open at 50% capacity with frequent cleaning and social distancing
  • Parks and trails are encouraged to reopen
  • Certain businesses (gyms, salons, bars, theaters, etc.) will remain closed
  • Restaurants continue to be takeout and delivery only
  • Gatherings are still limited to 10 people, but gatherings with friends outdoors are allowed
  • Employers are still encouraged to telework when possible
  • Childcare centers that follow strict cleaning requirements can open for working parents or those looking for work
  • Worship services of more than 10 people are allowed outdoors if socially distanced

Cooper says NC has flattened the curve, and he wants to move ahead during the coronavirus pandemic with confidence.

“Phase One is designed to be a limited easing of restrictions that can give people safe opportunities to socialize and boost parts of our economy while keeping important safety restrictions in place. And we can only boost our economy when people have confidence in their safety,” the governor said.

Cooper said the good news is that the efforts of those across the state to slow the spread of COVID-19 is doing just that.

“We must be cautious and methodical with plans to ease restrictions. Removing them all at once would cause a surge in new cases, more people in the hospital and more North Carolinians dying. We have to keep taking precautions to keep people safe, but we can’t stay at home forever,” Cooper said.

Dr. Mandy Cohen of the North Carolina Health and Human Services brought up the start of the steady “leveling” of state COVID-19 cases without spikes or surges.

Dr. Cohen stated that officials are looking at a combination of metrics over the last 14 days to help them decide which actions to take next. These metrics include COVID-like syndromic cases, lab-confirmed cases, positive tests as a percentage of total tests, and hospitalizations.

North Carolina officials encourage residents to remember the “3 Ws” in the fight against the coronavirus: Wear, Wait, and Wash.

Earlier Tuesday, NCDHHS announced 12,256 confirmed cases of COVID-19 across 99 of North Carolina’s 100 counties.

A total of 452 deaths are being attributed to the virus.

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