Governor Cooper sets COVID-19 Benchmarks for Phased Reopening of State
Governor Cooper has announced his phased plan for reopening the state’s economy, with specific benchmarks to move forward. The state will reopen to commerce in three phases, but only when certain health benchmarks are met, Gov. Roy Cooper and N.C. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen announced Thursday.
Social distancing is keeping this crisis manageable, but we have not yet met our goals to move to Phase 1.
Between now and then, the State will be watching for trends in a few critical areas. They need to see a consistent decrease over a 14 day period in a) the number of new COVID-19 cases, both lab confirmed and syndromic cases, b) the percentage of tests that come back positive, and c) the number of hospitalizations each day. For some factors, a sustained leveling may be sufficient to move forward.
We also need more PPE and testing supplies. Nationwide shortages continue. We are getting huge orders from hospitals, doctor's offices, nursing homes, first responders, and many others which we cannot fill. We do not want to move into Phase 1 until we have a 30-day supply of all critical PPE. Gowns and N95 masks are especially hard to acquire.
The final part of getting ready for Phase 1 is the hiring and training of about 500 people to do contact tracing and use of digital tracing. That workforce development has already begun.
Important Caveat: Prior to Phase 1, the Governor will be working with healthcare professionals to create criteria to allow for the resumption of certain elective medical procedures. This will depend on many factors, including the availability of PPE.
PHASE 1: Will begin in early to mid-May, depending on what the trends are showing. The Stay at Home Order will be modified in the following ways:
Allow additional travel outside of your home for certain additional commercial activities.
Reopen some commercial businesses, like retail stores, and public parks. There will be requirements for enhanced hygiene/sanitation, accommodations for vulnerable populations, and employee protections at these businesses.
Current restrictions on long term care facilities, mass gatherings, and recommendations to wear a face covering in public will remain. More restrictive county-level orders will remain in place, to accommodate differences across the state. Vulnerable populations are encouraged to continue to stay at home as much as possible.
Phase 1 is expected to last for 2-3 weeks. If benchmarks are met, we will move to Phase 2.
PHASE 2: The Stay at Home order will be further modified to allow for the reopening of more facilities including restaurants, bars, personal care services, gyms, houses of worship, public playgrounds, and entertainment venues. The Governor will be working with the business community to develop specific, workable safeguards to allow for safe operation of each type of business. This will require coordination and planning. Limitations will include the number of people permitted inside, which will be different depending on facility size, type of activity, etc.
The mass gathering limit will be increased to more than 10 and less than 100. The exact number is TBD.
Restrictions on long-term care facilities will remain in place during Phase 2. Vulnerable populations are encouraged to continue to stay at home.
Phase 2 is expected to continue for 4-6 weeks. If we continue to hit benchmarks, we will move to Phase 3.
PHASE 3: Decrease the recommended restrictions for vulnerable populations. Increase capacity at restaurants, bars and similar facilities.
The mass gatherings limit will be increased.
Restrictions on long-term care facilities may remain in place.
NOTE: All of these plans are subject to change, depending on trends, to avoid a spike in cases and to protect public health. We are staying ahead of the curve and doing better than many other states, in large part due to the cooperation of citizens who are following Stay at Home restrictions.