North Carolina will begin the first phase of reopening at 5 p.m. today, allowing state parks to open to the public and residents to leave home more freely to shop. 

“Even though today at 5 pm North Carolina moves into phase one, know that the stay-at-home order is still in effect,” Governor Cooper said a press conference Friday. “Phase one is a careful, modest step to reigniting our economy while keeping important safety rules in place.”

Cooper’s three-phase plan will slowly reopen the state over the next two months. Phase one will allow non-essential businesses where social distancing is possible to reopen, such as clothing retailers. However, higher-risk businesses where social distance is impossible, like tattoo parlors or dine-in restaurants, will remain closed. Public playgrounds will stay closed and restrictions at long-term care facilities will remain in place. 

As of Friday, the state has reported 13,868 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 515 people remain hospitalized. So far, 527 people have died.

Among them, Alexander Pettiway Jr., a former officer with the Durham Sheriff’s department who was working at the Durham jail when he contracted the virus, and restaurant owner Janice Carolyn Philbeck Greene.

“We must realize that each number represents the death of a real person,” Cooper said. “COVID-19 is a lethal threat. It is a cruel virus causing grave harm in otherwise healthy people, separating people from their loved ones at the darkest of hours, and taking our heroes away from us.”

The decision to reopen was based on trends showing North Carolina has succeeded in flattening the curve and avoiding hospital overruns, while increasing testing and tracing of the virus. While some of those benchmarks have been satisfied, Mandy Cohen, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, said there is still more work to be done to increase testing in the state. 

“We remain laser-focused on our testing, tracing and trends,” Cohen said. “The governor and I want to see more testing across the state, particularity in our under-served communities.”

While restrictions will loosen in phase one, Cooper urged residents to remain vigilant by wearing face coverings in public, washing their hands and keeping at least six feet of distance from other people while waiting on check-out lines.

 “Be smart. Protect yourself and your loved ones,” Cooper said. 

Contact Raleigh news editor Leigh Tauss at 

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One reply on “North Carolina Enters First Phase of Reopening”

  1. Governor, Open our churches here in North Carolina. Give us Christians the benefit of the doubt that we are smart enough to keep our distance for a little while longer. Some may choose to continue to stay home. Others may choose to gather in our church building. Open our churches : OR close the bars, close the Abortion Clinics – these two are non essential…

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