North Carolina’s stay-at-home order will lift Friday and restaurants will be permitted to allow dine-in customers as the state enters into the second phase of reopening, Governor Roy Cooper announced Wednesday. Bars and night clubs, however, remain closed, along with many other businesses. 

The step is a more modest one than initially envisioned, Cooper said, in part because data shows the number of coronavirus cases statewide continues to increase. In what Cooper dubbed “safer at home,” phase two will still require social distancing and encourage folks to avoid large crowds. 

“Safer at home’ means just what it says: just because you can go more places doesn’t mean you always should ,” Cooper said a press conference. 

The number of laboratory-confirmed cases of coronavirus topped 20,000 Wednesday out of nearly 278,000 tests performed. So far, 702 people have died and 554 remain hospitalized. 

Phase two, which starts Friday at 5 p.m., allows restaurants to resume dine-in service at half-capacity per the fire marshal’s guidelines or fewer than 12 people per 1,000 square feet. Those businesses must also observer social distancing measures, including having staff wear face coverings and spacing tables six feet apart. 

Barbershops and hair salons will be allowed to reopen with precautions such as face coverings and decreased capacity. Bars and nightclubs will not reopen just yet, nor will gyms, movie theaters, bowling alleys or museums. 

Those who can are encouraged to continue teleworking. Gatherings of up to 10 people are allowed indoors, while outdoor spaces can have up to 25 people. 

The decision to enter phase two was based on the state meeting three of four key benchmarks in fighting the spread of the virus. While the number of cases in the state continues to increase, the trajectory of COVID-like syndromic cases is decreasing, as are the percentage of people testing positive for the virus. The number of hospitalizations appears to have leveled. 

The curve has flattened and the state so far has avoided a deadly spike in hospitalizations, but we still aren’t seeing a decline in cases just yet, Mandy Cohen, secretary for the Department of Health and Human Services said. 

“The data shows us we need to stay cautious and vigilant and continue to slow the spread of the virus,” Cohen said. 

Read all of the guidelines for phase two here. 

Contact Raleigh news editor Leigh Tauss at

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