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The Three Phases to Reopen North Carolina Explained

Phase 1 of Gov. Cooper's plan could begin next week

The last two months have been perhaps the most economically devastating time frame of the past 100 years, but this week we were shown some light at the end of the tunnel. Gov. Roy Cooper and the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) announced on Monday a three-phase plan for reopening the state, which state officials are set to begin implementing next week.

A statewide stay-at-home order that went into effect on March 30 is due to expire on Friday, May 8, and Phase 1 of reopening could begin the very next day. According to details in the plan, North Carolinians have flattened the curve and slowed the rate of acceleration in COVID-19 cases enough to do so.

Protesters across the nation have pressured local leaders to reopen their states in order to curb the negative economic impact on small business. North Carolina has seen its share of these protests in the state capital of Raleigh and Charlotte will see its first protest today at noon.

The NCDHHS COVID-19 North Carolina Dashboard states that decisions to increase or decrease social distancing recommendations rely on two key factors: trends in key metrics, and the state’s capacity to conduct testing and tracing.

phases of reopening north carolina
The graph shows that Emergency Department visits have decreased over the last two-week period (COVID-19 North Carolina Dashboard)

The Metrics

Key metrics include continued decrease of COVID-19 cases over a two-week period, as well as a decreased or sustained leveling of lab-confirmed cases, a decrease in positive tests as a percentage of total tests, and a decrease or sustained leveling of hospitalizations in the same period.

Testing and tracing capacities are measured by the number of tests completed per day, ability to conduct widespread tracing and the state supply of personal protective equipment (PPE).

Although we are seeing the trend of emergency department visits for COVID-like illness, hospitalizations over 14 days and percent of positive test decrease, there has not been a decline or downward trajectory in new cases.

coronavirus cases in north carolina
This graph shows that we are not seeing a decrease or leveling in the amount of new cases week over week (COVID-19 North Carolina Dashboard)

To alleviate these metrics, the state plans to increase daily testing from 2,500-3,000 people a day to 5,000-7,000 people a day, increasing tracers from 250 to 500 through the Carolina Community Tracing Collaborative, deploying digital tracing technology, and establishing an adequate supply of gowns and N95 masks to fill requests for 30 days.

According to the Dashboard, the state currently has enough N95 respirator masks to fill one day of requests. Alternatively, they do not have enough gowns to fill a full day’s request. There are nearly 80,000 daily requests for N95 respirators and nearly 34,000 daily requests for gowns.

When the number of cases, positive tests and hospitalizations decrease or sustain to a point where the state feels comfortable, they can begin the phases of reopening North Carolina.

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Phase 1 of Reopening North Carolina

Phase 1 could begin as soon as May 9.

Certain restrictions will remain in place to keep social distancing efforts a top priority for society. Changes in the order include:

  • People can leave their homes for commercial activity.
  • Commercial retailers and services will need to implement social distancing policies including cleaning and other protocols.
  • Parks can open subject to gathering limits (Mecklenburg County reopened the parking lots at county parks on Thursday.)
  • Gatherings will be limited to no more than 10 people.
  • Face coverings will be recommended in public.
  • Restrictions will remain in place for nursing homes and other congregate-living settings.
  • Teleworking will remain highly recommended.

At least two to three weeks after Phase 1 begins, state officials believe they can enact Phase 2.

Phase 2 of Reopening North Carolina

Phase 2 could begin as soon as May 23.

The following changes are planned to be made in Phase 2:

  • Lift the stay-at-home order with a strong encouragement for vulnerable populations to continue staying at home.
  • It will allow the limited opening of restaurants, bars and other businesses. They will follow strict safety protocols such as reduced capacity and social distancing.
  • Allowing gatherings at houses of worship and entertainment venues at reduced capacities.
  • Allow an increase in number of people allowed at gatherings
  • Open public playgrounds
  • Continue restrictions on nursing homes and congregate-living settings

The next phase is nearly a full reopening of the state, except for the nursing homes.

Phase 3 of Reopening North Carolina

Phase 3 could begin as soon as June 20.

The final phase includes the following changes:

  • Lessen restrictions for vulnerable populations with encouragement to continue practicing physical distancing.
  • Allow increased capacity at restaurants, bars, other businesses, houses of worship and entertainment venues.
  • Further increase the number of people allowed at gatherings.
  • Continue restrictions on nursing homes and congregate-living settings

We’ve been down a long road and there is still a long way to go. The lifting of social distancing orders doesn’t put us out of harm’s way. History shows that the threat of a second wave is very real, especially as society attempts to reopen just a bit. Even if that didn’t happen, this plan takes us into the end of June. That is much longer than any of us expected this to last back in early March. Keep social distancing, keep washing your hands, keep positive and keep hanging in there. It will all be over … eventually.

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  1. We need the gyms to reopen so we can stay healthy for our mind and spirts not to mention our weight gain from not working out. Obviously, this Governor doesn’t work out or care if we become obese!!!

    1. Why not go for a walk, push a lawnmower or just some good ol’ fashion housework. Help the state get a trash bag and pickup garbage. There’s other ways to workout other than going to the gym. As far as becoming obese, push back from the table.

      1. There are things you can’t do at home without the proper equipment. This is especially true for men. Taught classes are just more effective than videos at home. Its just ignorance and overkill that Gyms are not opened now. They are uniquely equipped to provide separation, sanitation and access to washing and cleaning facilities. Much more than restuarants and stores. No problem getting alcohol from the ABC store but wanting a healthy workout? forget it….

    2. Whaaa .. work out at the house. Go for walks, jogging, push-ups, pull-ups, sit-ups, jumping jacks. There IS stuff you can do w/o having to be in a gym. Out door basket ball, touch football, tennis, bad-mitten, soft-ball games.

  2. Cooper will play his politics until Election Day. He knows President Trumps strong hold is the rallies, so he and his friends backing him with false information. Will keep the rallies from happening in the name of COVID-19 and public safety … while the cost of it is our economy. Gov. Cooper must go, we can’t afford this insanity a day longer than the day we can elect Dan Forest. Cooper and the Democrats Of Washington have played the biggest HOAX on the America people that has ever been pulled. Wake up people!!!!

  3. Has anyone even had some die due to the coronavirus. We all think this is a hoax until its at our door steps. People are simple. Most don’t believe fire burns until they are burnt. Sad reality.

  4. We need to reopen fully. Look at the states that didn’t shut down and how well they are doing. If we continue wearing mask, we will prolong this herd immunity. No science seems to back up this lockdown plan!

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