Phase One reopening starts Friday, stay-at-home order modified

Published 6:33 pm Tuesday, May 5, 2020

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North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper announced Tuesday evening that the state will enter Phase One of a three-phased reopening beginning this weekend. A modified version of the statewide stay-at-home order will remain in effect.

“COVID-19 is still a serious threat to our state, and Phase One is designed to be a limited easing of restrictions that can boost parts of our economy while keeping important safety rules in place,” Cooper said. “This is a careful and deliberate first step, guided by the data, and North Carolinians still must use caution while this virus is circulating.”

Executive Order 138 removes the distinction between essential and non-essential businesses, allowing all retail businesses to open at 50% capacity, provided they follow social distancing requirements and cleaning requirements. Teleworking is still encouraged whenever possible.

A number of other businesses, however, will remain closed, including bars, personal care businesses, entertainment venues and gyms. Restaurants are still restricted to drive-thru, takeout and delivery services under Phase One.

Though the stay-at-home order will remain in effect during Phase One, it has been modified.

“All individuals currently in the State of North Carolina may undertake allowable activities permitted by this executive order,” the order reads. “Otherwise, individuals are ordered to stay at home.”

Those “allowable activities” include leaving home for the purpose of health and safety, shopping, engaging in outdoor activity, for work, to look for work, to take care of others, to worship or exercise First Amendment rights, to travel between places of residence, to volunteer, to attend small outdoor gatherings or to provide/receive government services. Most of these activities are still restricted to gatherings of less than 10 people.

“Mass gatherings do not include gatherings for health and safety, to look for and obtain goods and services, for work, for worship, or exercise of First Amendment rights, or for receiving governmental services,” the order reads.

The order encourages gatherings of 10 or more people to take place outside if possible, and requires organizers to follow protocols to reduce disease transmission and social distancing requirements. Groups are also encouraged to hold several gatherings over a longer period of time if possible (i.e. multiple church services per week instead of one large gathering). Drive-in events are not considered mass gatherings.

The new order is in effect until 5 p.m. May 22. However, the end of the new order does not necessarily mean the state will move to Phase Two. According to a release from Cooper’s office, Phase Two will only start if data and indicators are in the right place.

The full text of Executive Order 138 can be viewed as an attachment to the online version of this story. Visit or see this weekend’s edition for additional coverage of Phase One and the modified stay-at-home order.