Governor Roy Cooper signed an executive order Thursday limiting the number of people that can be inside stores at one time and mandating markers be placed six-feet apart at check-out lines to encourage social distancing. 

As of Thursday, there have been 3,651 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in North Carolina and 65 deaths. 

“I know as we approach a holiday weekend that this loss of life will be even more profound for many and we are thinking about their family and friends,” Cooper said. 

The latest executive order builds on the restrictions Cooper placed on nursing homes Wednesday. Starting Monday, April 13 at 5 p.m., essential businesses that remain open such as grocery stores and pharmacies must limit the number of customers inside the store to no more than 20 percent of their total capacity. Stores also must place six-foot markers around check-out lines so that shoppers keep their distance while waiting to pay. Stores are also asked to implement stricter cleaning and disinfectant policies, add plastic shields to check out kiosks and mark aisles as one-way. 

The second part of the order expands on the restrictions to nursing homes, including banning residents at those facilities from gathering in dinning rooms or for group activities. It also requires staff at those facilities wear face masks and get screened daily for symptoms of the virus.

The order will also eliminate some of the hurdles business owners face applying for unemployment. So far, 497,000 North Carolinians have filed for unemployment benefits and the state has sent out over $40.3 million in aid. 

Ahead of Easter weekend, Cooper asked families not to gather and maintain social distancing measures to reduce the spread of the virus. 

“It’s strange not being in the church building on Sunday and it will be even harder not being in the pews on Easter Sunday, but it’s the right thing to do,” Cooper said. “I know this is especially hard with some family traditions that have gone on for generations. Now is the time to hold fast to our beliefs and find new and meaningful ways to celebrate these holidays while staying home.” 

Contact Raleigh news editor Leigh Tauss at 

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