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State to close restaurants and bars to dine-in customers

By Gary D. Robertson

Associated Press

RALEIGH — North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper is ordering all restaurants and bars be closed to dine-in patrons as movement restrictions keep getting ratcheted up to dampen the spread of the new coronavirus.

Cooper’s office announced he would issue a new executive order directing the closings effective at 5 p.m. Tuesday. The establishments can continue to offer takeout and delivery, according to a news release.

Until now, bars and restaurants were exempted from Cooper’s prohibition of assemblies of more than 100 people, but state health officials had discouraged crowds at them and urged safe distancing.

Cooper’s impending order also will expand unemployment benefits to help employees harmed financially by closings in commerce, his office said.

Cooper and others leading North Carolina’s response scheduled a Tuesday afternoon news conference to discuss details.

By Tuesday morning, North Carolina state government had counted 40 residents who tested positive for COVID-19, with 15 of those living in Wake County and seven in Mecklenburg. No deaths have been reported in the state. Over the weekend, Cooper issued an order prohibiting the mass gatherings and closing the K-12 public schools for at least two weeks.

North Carolina residents are pitching in within the state and other parts of the world.

Volunteers are playing a role to ensure students in low-income families receive meals during the school hiatus. And Boone-based Samaritan’s Purse, led by the Rev. Franklin Graham, announced it’s using a cargo plane to send a 68-bed emergency field hospital, with 20 tons of medical equipment, to Italy to help battle the coronavirus.

“We are going to Italy to provide life-saving care in Jesus’ name to people who are suffering,” Graham said in a news release.

The virus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough, for most people, but severe illness is more likely in the elderly and people with existing health problems. Worldwide, COVID-19 has killed over 7,300 people so far but more than 80,000 have recovered.

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