Executive order addresses crowded retail stores, nursing homes, unemployment

Published 6:24 pm Thursday, April 9, 2020

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A new executive order announced by North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper on Thursday afternoon will take steps to prevent overcrowding at retail stores, require additional protections for nursing home residents and speed up the processing of unemployment claims.

“Effective Monday at 5 p.m., stores may not have a number of people inside at one time that is more than 20% of the stated fire capacity or either five people for every 1,000 square feet,” Cooper said. “Stores must also mark six feet of distance at places where people need to gather, like checkout lines, and they must perform frequent environmental cleaning and routine disinfection.”

Stores are also encouraged to make hand sanitizer available, set shopping times for seniors, use barriers in checkout lines and mark aisles for one-way traffic to limit interaction between shoppers.

“The second part of this order includes mandatory protective measures for nursing homes that had previously been recommended as guidance,” Cooper said. “It prevents dining and group activities in common spaces. It requires face masks for employees. It also requires these nursing homes to screen employees and residents for symptoms of sickness. We strongly encourage other long-term facilities to follow this same guidance.”

Finally, the third piece of the order seeks to address issues with the state unemployment system, which has been quickly overwhelmed by an unprecedented number of people filing claims. Since March 16, Cooper says the Division of Employment Security has accepted more than 497,000 unemployment claims, with approximately $40.3 million already paid out.

“The order makes it easier for employers to file a batch of claims on behalf of their employees,” Cooper said. “This is known as an attached claim. By temporarily eliminating some hurdles for employers, we hope to get benefits in the hands of those who need them faster.”