Above: Governor Roy Cooper discusses his decision to extend the ‘stay-at-home’ order and what a phased reopening of the state will look like.
NORTH CAROLINA — Governor Roy Cooper has extended the state’s ‘stay-home’ order until May 8 he announced on Thursday afternoon. While data does show North Carolina has flattened the curve when it comes to the number of Covid-19 cases, easing up on restrictions right now would be the wrong choice, he said.
With that being said, Cooper did offer a look into what it will take for the state to start moving forward to reopen its economy; Cooper laid out a three-phase reopening that would begin when the numbers begin to trend downward and which could last months.
“Last month, our state took strong actions to slow the spread of this pandemic, we know that these actions save lives, but we also know we can’t keep staying at home for the long run,” Cooper said. “After a thorough analysis, it is clear that we are flattening the curve but our state is not ready to lift restrictions yet.”
There has been plenty of resistance to the state’s stay-home orders from opposition parties, and protests and rallies have been held, but Cooper remained adamant that reopening the state now would be the wrong choice.
“I will not risk the health of our people or our hospitals. Easing these restrictions now would do that. This decision is based on data. I know people want their lives and their livelihood back … The health and safety of North Carolinians is our number one priority,” Cooper said.
By the numbers
Secretary of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Mandy Cohen helped break down some of the statistics as far as what we are seeing statewide. As of today, there have been 7,608 confirmed cases, 486 patients are in the hospital, and there have been 253 deaths due to the coronavirus.
The state is using four main metrics to track the disease and its trend. The good news is social distancing seems to be working — however, cases are not yet trending downward, according to Cohen.
The four metrics include: Covid like syndromic cases over 14 days; lab-confirmed tests; positive tests as a percentage of total tests; and hospitalization over 14 days.
These four metrics will help state leaders and healthcare professionals get a better picture of which way the virus is trending statewide.
It is worth pointing out that over the past couple of days the state has seen some of the biggest day-over-day jumps in positive cases, however, Cohen said testing numbers have also increased.
“As we test more, we know we’ll find more,” she said.
Of the four metrics, the only one that is showing signs of relief is the first, the number of Covid-like syndromic cases statewide. Positive cases, the percentage of positive cases over the number of tests performed, and hospitalizations have not yet decreased.
Where to go from here
Part of the general angst that has been felt by residents and business owners is the lack of information with what exactly it will take for the state to reopen. Until now, there has been little information provided to address this question.
On Thursday afternoon, Cooper released a three-stage plan to reopen the economy, once numbers start to trend in the right direction.
The first phase will help reopen the economy by allowing commercial businesses to open, regardless of their status of ‘essential’ or not — but this would not include bars, restaurants, salons, and other service businesses. The stay home order will remain in place, and retailers and businesses will have to follow some guidelines to ensure the health and safety of customers.
Public gatherings would be limited to 10 people or less and parks could reopen (provided the mass gathering rules are followed), Cooper said.
If numbers continue to show a downward trend, phase two would allow the lifting of the stay-home order while encouraging the most vulnerable to take caution. This phase would allow for the opening of bars and restaurants, provided strict safety protocols are followed along with reduced capacity.
It is important to note that this is not going to be a quick process, phase two would take place at least 2–3 weeks after phase one is implemented.
In this phase, the governor said places of worship, as well as entertainment, could be allowed to reopen with limited capacity and the number of people allowed at a gathering could be increased.
Restrictions at nursing homes and congregant care facilities would remain in place.
The third and final phase, which would take place at least 4–6 weeks after phase two, would loosen restrictions on the vulnerable populations and allow increased capacity at restaurants, bars, and other locations including churches.
It would also increase the number of people allowed at gatherings while continuing restrictions at nursing homes and other care settings.