Gov. Roy Cooper announced Wednesday that North Carolina will stay in Phase Two of COVID-19-related restrictions until at least Sept. 11. Phase Two was set to expire Friday.

Cooper said he considered recommendations from health experts and those involved in school reopening plans.

Remaining in phase two means most mass gatherings are still limited to 10 people indoors and 25 outdoors, on-premises dining at restaurants is still limited to about 50% of capacity and movie theaters, museums, public playgrounds, indoor exercise facilities and gaming establishments must remain closed. Religious gatherings, funerals and weddings are exempt.

North Carolina has been in Phase Two of the restrictions since May 22.

Cooper’s announcement comes as Dr. Mandy Cohen, director of the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services, said four major metrics the state uses to analyze the virus’ spread have stabilized.

"While we are seeing stabilization of our numbers, that doesn't mean we can let up. We know this stability is fragile, and the trends can change quickly if we let down our guard,” said Cooper.

“As I said last week, stable is good, but decreasing is better. And while we are seeing stabilization of our numbers, that doesn’t mean we can let up. You only have to look at hospitals in other states that have been overwhelmed when reopening occurred too fast.”

Cooper already announced that North Carolina schools will reopen in August under “Plan B,” allowing both in-person and remote learning. This plan involves some students potentially rotating schedules, with some students not coming onto campus at all.

In the Wilkes County’s Schools, students who didn’t opt for remote learning every day will rotate each day between learning in their classrooms and learning remotely. Each school will have two groups, with one learning remotely the same day the other is learning in classrooms and vice-versa the next day.

“We want to be done with this pandemic, but it’s not done with us. We’ll continue toward the school year and work together with everyone’s safety in mind. The easiest and most effective way we can ensure our children go to school in August and ease economic restrictions: wear a mask,” Cooper said.

Cooper announced in June that face masks are required in most public places, indoors or outdoors, when people are or may be within six feet of others.

They are required for all employees and customers of retail businesses and restaurants as well as workers in manufacturing, construction, meat processing and agriculture settings.

Retailers must have all customers in their establishments wearing facial coverings if they are or may be within six feet of others, unless customers claim any of several listed exceptions. Face coverings may be removed for certain grooming services.

On July 31, Cooper enacted a statewide curfew, forcing restaurants, breweries, wineries and distilleries to stop selling alcoholic drinks after 11 p.m. as bars remain closed. The curfew remains in effect through 11 p.m. on Aug. 31.

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