• 77°

Governor agrees to ease stay-home order later this week

RALEIGH (AP) — Gov. Roy Cooper agreed on Tuesday to ease North Carolina’s stay-at-home order, saying COVID-19 cases are generally stable and testing, tracing and health care supplies improving enough to warrant increased commerce and movement.

A new executive order taking effect Friday afternoon that opens many more businesses will replace a more restrictive mandate that Cooper had issued starting March 30. The Democratic governor began to loosen the number of activities that are no longer prohibited later than many other Southern chief executives.

Caution was the key word for Cooper, even as a conservative-leaning group have held weekly demonstration near the Executive Mansion demanding he cancel his stay-at-home order completely in the name of freedom and reopening the economy. The state has received more than 1 million unemployment benefit claims since mid-March. Cooper said health officials are driving when decisions are made, with input from employers and businesses on the types of restrictions.

“We are easing restrictions in a data-driven way,” Cooper said at a media briefing.
Under his new order, retail businesses previously considered nonessential will be allowed to open, but they must be capped at 50% capacity and must direct customers to practice social distancing. Workers are urged to wear masks. Parks are encouraged to reopen and more child care centers can now open.

Bars, barber shops and hair salons, and gyms still have to stay closed, and restaurants still can offer only takeout and delivery options, as they have been limited since mid-March. Although gatherings of more than 10 people are still prohibited to help prevent the spread of the new coronavirus, church services are allowed if they are outside and congregants remain at least 6 feet apart.

Cooper considers the new order the first step of a three-phase plan to reopen the state, which has reported more than 12,250 positive cases and over 450 related deaths. The governor said two weeks ago that decisions would be based on making progress in 14-day case trends and in improvements with testing, tracing and personal protective equipment supplies.

Although the trends for COVID-like illness in hospitals and the percentage of positive COVID-19 tests are improving, the rolling average of lab-confirmed cases is increasing slightly and hospitalizations are level, state Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen said.

The number of tests performed daily have doubled, and a group is in the process of hiring contact tracers to double the number of such workers. The supply of personal protective equipment also is growing, save for surgical gowns.

There’s no guarantee the state will move to a broader reopening phase when the new order expires May 22, Cooper said. Cohen pointed out new data released Tuesday showing that slightly more than half of North Carolina adults are at higher risk for catching the virus because they are at least 65 years old, have at least one underlying health condition or both.

“We cannot lower our guard,” Cohen said, adding later: “We still want you to stay home.”
Disclosure of the new order’s signing came hours after a few hundred people associated with the ReopenNC group opposed to Cooper’s stay-at-home mandate rallied again in downtown Raleigh. They didn’t march, as they had during their past two weekly gatherings. Ashley Smith, a ReopenNC co-founder, told the group that leaders were considering litigation to challenge Cooper’s authority and would raise money toward legal expenses.

Smith had little confidence that any change by Cooper would make a difference for workers and businesses displaced by massive closings for several weeks.

“Desperation is growing and the people’s patience is running thin,” Smith told reporters. The best course of action, she said, would be to remove all business and movement restrictions and let people use common sense.

Earlier Tuesday, the North Carolina Chamber also recommended a broader first step than Cooper offered. The Chamber had wanted restaurants and personal care service businesses to reopen as long as safe workplace and distancing guidelines were followed.

___
Follow AP news coverage of the coronavirus pandemic at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak.

Comments

Business

Rowan-Cabarrus Community College unveils tenants, training partners at Advanced Technology Center

Crime

Blotter: Salisbury man charged with drug, assault crimes

Local

City of Salisbury to resume normal operations, return to in-person council meetings

Local

Dreams of flight become reality at ASCEND summer camp

Local

Base salary for SPD officers increases to nearly $42,000 next week

News

‘He loved people:’ Larry Ford leaves behind legacy of legal achievement, community service

Local

Statewide pickleball tournament at Catawba College in September expected to draw hundreds of visitors

Local

Resources still available for those dealing with lingering impacts of pandemic

Education

Shoutouts: Misenheimer completes master’s degree in Strategic Studies from the U.S. Army War College

Education

State expands Principal of the Year to charter schools

High School

All-county baseball team: Norris Award winner Honeycutt made the most of a dozen games

Education

Partners in learning raises $3.2 million for new facility

Education

Tar Heel Boys State creates miniature government at Catawba College

News

NC medical marijuana legalization gets hearing in Senate

News

N. Carolina bill ending extra $300 benefits heads to Cooper

Coronavirus

New COVID-19 positives in Rowan at lowest point since start of pandemic

Education

Rowan Wild’s animal camp makes a comeback at Dan Nicholas Park

Coronavirus

Health officials say financial incentives helped vaccination rates; lottery drawing today

Granite Quarry

Granite Quarry adopts budget that keeps tax rate flat

Business

Airport Advisory committee endorses plans for expansion at Mid-Carolina Regional

China Grove

China Grove will celebrate 40th Farmers Day with week full of festivities

Sports

Pistons win in NBA draft lottery; Hornets will get 11th pick

Crime

Officers in Locust arrest drivers who tried to flee; one was on motorcycle reported stolen from Rowan

News

Panel OKs NC Senate budget bill; Dems pan policy provisions