© 2021 WFAE
90.7 Charlotte 93.7 Southern Pines 90.3 Hickory 106.1 Laurinburg
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
See the latest news and updates about COVID-19 and its impact on the Charlotte region, the Carolinas and beyond.

North Carolina's Move Into Phase 2 Explained

David Emrich


Why can’t bars and gyms open in the state’s modified Phase 2? How long will this second phase of reopening last? WFAE’s Lisa Worf and health reporter Claire Donnelly break it down. 


LISA WORF: Claire, what’s included in this modified Phase 2?


CLAIRE DONNELLY: Cooper is calling this modified Phase 2 plan “safer at home.” It lifts the stay-at-home order but still encourages people -- especially vulnerable populations like older people and those with underlying health conditions -- to stay at home.


In Phase 2, restaurants can reopen for dine-in customers but at 50% capacity. Hair and nail salons and barbershops can open but also need to limit their customers. Gatherings are limited to 10 people inside and to 25 people outside. Pools can also reopen at 50% capacity.


But gyms, bars, public playgrounds and entertainment venues like movie theaters and bowling alleys will stay closed. That’s different from the Phase 2 Cooper proposed in April.


WORF: Why does this Phase 2 look different? What changed?


DONNELLY: Cooper said Wednesday that the decision to keep bars, gyms and those other businesses closed is because the potential spread of the coronavirus can be significant there.


State officials say North Carolina has met a lot of its data requirements to move into Phase 2. The number of positive coronavirus tests out of the total number of tests is declining and the number of people in the hospital is stable.


But state Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen said North Carolina’s overall number of cases is continuing to increase. That number was expected to go up because the state is doing more tests but Cohen said she would’ve liked to see it level off:


“We need to move in a more cautious way. Our rising case counts indicate that we need to take a more modest step than we would have originally planned. We need to be incredibly vigilant to slow the spread of the virus.”


And Cooper said Wednesday that “safer at home” means that “just because you can go more places, doesn’t mean you always should.”


WORF: I know you talked to some restaurant owners yesterday about moving into Phase 2. What did they have to say?


DONNELLY: Everyone I talked to was excited at the possibility of reopening. Remember, restaurants have been closed to dine-in customers for more than two months because of the coronavirus. I talked with Michelle Tucker. She owns the Jamaican restaurant Mama’s Carribean Grill. She said business dropped by 70% when they switched to doing only takeout orders.


But going to a restaurant is definitely going to look different in Phase 2. Under the guidelines, groups will have to be sitting at least six feet apart and it’s recommended that restaurant workers wear face masks.


Tucker said she’s a little worried that some customers might not follow the new guidelines but her staff is prepared to talk to people who don’t follow them.


I also talked to Greg Auten, who owns Pinky’s Westside Grill. He says they’re waiting to reopen. He wants to see how other restaurants enforce social distancing:


“That first week, everybody’s gonna be really, really busy. And I would really hate for somebody to make a mistake and cause some sort of outbreak here. I’d hate to be known as that guy.”


Auten said Pinky’s will likely reopen for in-person customers June 1.


WORF: How long is Phase 2 expected to last? Do we know when businesses like bars and gyms could be allowed to reopen?


DONNELLY: The executive order that moves us into Phase 2 takes effect Friday at 5 p.m. and lasts until June 26. Cooper could modify the order to open more businesses or sign another order that would override it. But right now, it looks like it could be about five weeks before those businesses could reopen.

Sign up here for The Frequency, WFAE’s daily email newsletter.

What questions do you have about the coronavirus? What has this experience been like for you? Share your questions below.