Update: 7:15 p.m. Following Cooper's extension for the statewide stay-at-home order, Orange County has extended the county stay-at-home order to May 8. The order was originally set to expire April 30.
“We are monitoring the stats for Orange County and the state daily, and when the data indicates it is safe for us to ease these restrictions, we will do so,” Penny Rich, chair of the Orange County Board of Commissioners, said in a press release.
We’ve talked a lot about COVID-19, and now we want to hear from you. If you have a tip, question or just want to share your experience, leave us a voicemail at (919) 391-4895.
Gov. Roy Cooper announced today that North Carolina's stay-at-home order will be extended through May 8.
The announcement comes at a time when neighboring states such as Georgia are beginning to reopen businesses.
Cooper acknowledged that the state has made progress in terms of the spread of the virus, but he said he felt the state wasn't ready yet to start reopening.
"Now we know what is needed to transition out of the restrictions and what a new normal will look like," he said.
The order includes dine-in restaurants, bars and close-contact businesses like hair and nail salons, movie theaters and others.
His office laid out a plan last week that involves watching several areas to make the decision of when to reopen: testing, contact tracing and trends for areas like hospitalizations. This follows similar guidance from the White House.
"After a thorough analysis of the details of testing tracing and trends, it's clear that we are flattening the curve, but our state is not ready to lift restrictions yet," Cooper said. "We need more time to slow the spread of the virus before we can begin easing those restrictions."
But Cooper said despite this extension, he has been thinking about how to start easing restrictions. He announced his three-phase plan on Thursday:
- Phase one: the stay-at-home order would remain in place, but people can leave for commercial activity with some restrictions and guidance in place. For example, retailers would need to implement social distancing and cleaning protocols, and gatherings would be limited to 10 people.
- Phase two: the stay-at-home order would be lifted, but vulnerable populations would be encouraged to continue to abide by the order.
- Phase three: restrictions for vulnerable populations would be lessened, along with other guidance for crowd sizes and commercial activity.
N.C. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen said the state still needs to ensure it has the personal protective equipment to adequately serve health care professionals. The White House guidance suggests that states experience a decline in confirmed cases before reopening, and North Carolina just reported its second-highest daily case jump since it started tracking, Cohen said.
"I want to make sure you know the hard work you've been doing means that North Carolina is in a very good place," he said.
Though the state's curve is flattening, Cohen said the state needs to increase its testing capacity from about 2,500 daily to up to 7,000 daily. The state also needs more resources for tracing services, she said, and PPE supplies to last the state for more than 30 days.
"I will not risk the health of our people or our hospitals, and easing these restrictions now would do that," Cooper said.
But North Carolina can rebuild, he said.
Anna Pogarcic is the editor-in-chief of The Daily Tar Heel. She is a senior at UNC-Chapel Hill studying journalism and history major.
To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.