On Thursday, Gov. Roy Cooper announced a three-phase outline the state is implementing as it looks to ease the COVID-19 restrictions. During a press conference, Cooper presented the gradual reopening benchmarks that aim to keep as many North Carolinians as possible safe and healthy while easing the state back open.
In order to lift restrictions, Governor Cooper and Dr. Mandy Cohen, Secretary of NC Department of Health and Human Services stated that increased testing, tracing, capacity and availability of personal protective equipment need to be met in order to begin gradually lifting restrictions.
Outlined progress needed to begin lifting statewide restrictions:
Sustained Leveling or Decreased Trajectory in COVID-Like Illness (CLI) Surveillance Over 14 Days
Sustained Leveling or Decreased Trajectory of Lab-Confirmed Cases Over 14 Days
Sustained Leveling or Decreased Trajectory in Percent of Tests Returning Positive Over 14 Days
Sustained Leveling or Decreased Trajectory in Hospitalizations Over 14 Days
Increase in Laboratory Testing
Increase in Laboratory Testing
Availability of Personal Protective Equipment
Phase 1 would allow for travel not currently defined as essential, allowing people to travel to businesses allowed to be open at that time. This would include clothing stores, sporting goods stores, houseware stores and other stores.
Any open store must implement appropriate employee and consumer social distancing, enhanced hygiene and cleaning protocols, symptom screening of employees, accommodations for vulnerable workers, and provide education to employees and workers to combat misinformation.
Phase 1 would continue to limit gatherings to no more than 10 people.
Face masks and social distancing will continue to be recommended in public spaces.
Employers would be encouraged to continue teleworking policies.
Though the phase will be issued statewide, more restrictive local measures may remain in place.
According to a press release from Gov. Cooper’s office, Phase 2 would happen at least 2-3 weeks after Phase 1.
The “Stay At Home” order would be lifted under Phase 2, but vulnerable populations would be encouraged to continue to stay home to stay safe.
More businesses would be allowed to open so long as they can follow safety protocols, including the need to reduce capacity.
According to the press release, Phase 3 would happen at least 4-6 weeks after Phase 2.
Restrictions for vulnerable people would lessen with the encouragement to continue social distancing and minimizing exposure to settings where social distancing is not possible.
Capacity for restaurants, bars, entertainment venues, places of worship and other businesses would be allowed to increase.
The total number of people allowed to gather at once would again increase.
In terms of testing, at least 5,000 to 7,000 people a day need to be tested. Currently, North Carolina is testing approximately 2,500 to 3,000 people per day.
For protective masks and gowns, the state must have at least a 30-day supply. Currently, the state has only received 94,000 N95 masks out of the 21 million it has ordered.
The benchmarks that North Carolina is considering aligns with federal guidance for Opening Up America Again.
Cooper has continuously taken the common-sense approach to tackling the virus and the General Assembly needs to work with the governor to implement these phases adequately.
In order to guarantee that the loss of lives and damage to our economy are kept to a minimum, North Carolina needs to commit to a plan that is effective and based on the recommendations of experts and doctors. Cooper has provided that.
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