Govenor Roy Cooper is confident North Carolina can start to reopen next week, even though the state reported its largest increase in coronavirus cases Thursday. 

“Right now, we are on track but there are some potential warning signs ahead,” Cooper said at a press conference.

There were 561 new cases of coronavirus reported Thursday, bringing the state’s total to 10,509. More than 500 people remain hospitalized with the virus and 378 people have died. 

“We have to remember these are more than just numbers,” Cooper said a press conference. “The people who have died had lives and loved ones, and family, and friends are suffering in the way of their passing and we mourn with them.” 

Phase one of Cooper’s reopening plan will leave the stay-at-home order in place, but lift some restrictions and allow state parks to reopen. To get there, Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services Mandy Cohen said officials are monitoring the trajectory of the virus to meet certain metrics. 

We’ve met half of those benchmarks so far, but overall, the snapshot of the state’s fight against coronavirus is a mixed bag, Cohen said. While the curve has started to flatten, there has been an uptick in cases over the last seven days with Thursday seeing the largest day-over-day jump in lab-confirmed cases. That’s partially because testing has increased, which is a good thing.

But testing can only tell us so much. 

“Every data point has limitations. We know there’s more COVID-19 out in our community than gets captured in our lab data,” Cohen said.

Still, Cooper said officials are hopeful North Carolina can slowly start lifting restrictions after the state’s stay-at-home order expires May 8. Until then, he urged residents to continue to stay at home and maintain social distancing. 

“We remain hopeful that the trends will be stable enough to move us to the Phase One next week,” Cooper said. “Our message today is to stay vigilant.”

Here’s a refresher on what Cooper’s reopening plan looks like:

Phase 1 (possibly starting after May 8)

➡️ Stay-at-home order remains in place, but people are allowed to leave to shop.

➡️ Retailers will need to implement social distancing and cleaning protocols. 

➡️ Gatherings limited to no more than 10 people.

➡️ Parks reopen with gathering limits.

➡️ Masks and face coverings recommended in public.

➡️ Teleworking encouraged.

➡️ Restrictions on nursing homes and long-term care facilities remain in place.

Phase 2 (at least 2-3 weeks after phase 1) 

➡️ Stay-at-home order is lifted, but vulnerable populations are encouraged to continue staying home. 

➡️ Limited reopening of restaurants, bars, and other nonessential businesses with strict safety protocols and reduced capacity. 

➡️ Gatherings allowed at religious facilities and entertainment venues. 

➡️ Public playgrounds reopen.

➡️ More than 10 people are allowed to gather.

➡️ Restrictions on nursing homes and long-term care facilities remain in place.

Phase 3 (at least 4-6 weeks after phase 2) 

➡️ Vulnerable populations can leave home but should continue social distancing.

➡️ More people will be allowed inside, restaurants, bars, churches, and event venues.

➡️ Restrictions limiting the number of people who can gather will be lifted.

➡️ “Rigorous restrictions” on nursing homes and long-term care facilities continue. 

Contact Raleigh news editor Leigh Tauss at

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