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Phase 2 of state’s reopening plan begins 5 p.m. Friday

Gov. Roy Cooper announced Wednesday evening that North Carolina would enter into Phase 2 of the state’s reopening plan beginning 5 p.m. Friday.

He is lifting the stay-at-home order, which has been in place since late March, and instead said the state is shifting to a safer-at-home recommendation. People are encouraged to still telework whenever possible.

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

The state started easing stay-at-home restrictions May 8.

The state examines a combination of trends that guides the decision-making including COVID-like syndromic cases, lab-confirmed cases, positive tests as a percentage of total tests and hospitalizations, said DHHS Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen.

For Phase 2, no more than 10 people can gather indoors and no more than 25 people can gather outdoors. This applies to event venues, conference centers, stadiums and groups at parks or beaches.

“When people gather together, one person can be the spark to spread the virus to many,” he said.

Restaurants can reopen for dine-in service, though they will be able to operate at only 50 percent capacity. Tables should be at least six feet apart and workers are strongly recommended to wear face masks. Personal care businesses, including barber shops, hair and nail salons, tattoo parlors, tanning salons and massage therapists can also open at 50 percent capacity along with swimming pools.

Cooper said child care facilities remain open and can now enroll all children. Overnight and day camps can also open with safety rules.

Businesses that will remain closed include bars, nightclubs, gyms and indoors fitness facilities, indoor entertainment venues (movie theaters, bowling alleys, museums) and public playgrounds.

Cooper also directed the state’s Division of Employment Security to improve the efficiency and customer service of the unemployment benefits process as thousands of people continue to file for unemployment each week.

Phase 2 should last 4-6 weeks before the state moves into Phase 3 in late June.

“This next phase can help us boost our economy and that’s important,” Cooper said. “But we can only help our economy when people have confidence in their own safety which is why it’s important to ease restrictions carefully.”

As of Wednesday, there have been 20,122 confirmed cases in the county with 702 deaths and 554 people currently hospitalized. In Stanly, there have been 33 cases with four deaths.