Phase two for “reopening” North Carolina began at 5 p.m. Friday, but with more limitations than originally planned due to continued increases in daily COVID-19 case counts.

Gov. Roy Cooper said phase two ended his “stay at home order” and moves the state to a “safer at home recommendation.” Unless changed, phase two continues through June 26. These latest changes are in the governor’s executive order number 141.

According to a “frequently asked questions” document issued with the order, it’s strongly recommended that people wear cloth face masks when they leave their homes and may be within 6 feet of other people who aren’t household and family members in indoor business and other public settings.

“These coverings function to protect other people more than the wearer. Face coverings should also be worn outdoors when you cannot stay at least 6 feet away from other people,” the document says.

Changes under phase two include:

• restaurants can re-open for on-premises dining, at mostly a 50% capacity, with distancing and cleaning requirements. No more than 10 people at a table unless they’re in the same family;

• personal care businesses like salons and barbershops can also re-open at 50% capacity, with disinfection of equipment and face coverings for the service providers;

• overnight and day camps can open with specific safety rules;

• child care businesses can serve all children, as long as they follow state health guidelines.

Mass gatherings

Mass gatherings in phase two are limited to 10 people indoors and 25 people outdoors with certain exceptions.

The mass gathering limit and other requirements of the phase two order don’t apply to religious and spiritual gatherings, funeral and wedding ceremonies “and other activities constituting the exercise of First Amendment rights,” stated a “frequently asked questions” document issued with the order. Receptions or visitations before or after weddings and funerals are still subject to the cap.

Sporting and entertainment events are allowed in large venues only for broadcast to the public in phase two. Spectators are limited to the mass gathering limit of 10 people indoors and 25 people outdoors.

The mass gathering limit doesn’t apply to retail businesses, restaurants, personal care and grooming businesses, pools, child care, day camps, and overnight camps because other restrictions apply to these in phase two.

The mass gathering limits also doesn’t apply to working, gatherings for health and safety, looking for and obtaining goods and services and receiving governmental services in phase two. It doesn’t apply to normal operations at airports, bus and train stations or stops, medical facilities, libraries and shopping malls/centers.

Still closed

Closed in phase one and still closed in phase two are:

• public playgrounds;

• bars and nightclubs;

• movie theaters, museums, bowling alleys, amusement parks, arcades and skating rinks;

• bingo parlors and other gaming establishments.

The following facilities remain closed if operated within an indoor space: spas, exercise facilities, gyms, fitness studios, martial arts facilities, dance studios, trampoline and rock-climbing facilities, roller skating rinks, ice staking rinks and basketball courts.

Visitation at long-term care facilities remains restricted, except for certain compassionate care situations.

Retail business requirements

Also in phase two, all open retail businesses must:

• limit customers inside the store to “emergency maximum occupancy,” generally 50% under the fire code maximum;

• mark 6 feet of spacing in lines at point of sale and in other high-traffic areas for customers, such as at deli counters and near high-demand products;

• post the maximum occupancy in a noticeable place;

• post signs reminding customers and workers about social distancing and requesting that people who have been sick with a fever and/or cough not enter;

• conduct daily symptom screening of workers, using a standard interview questionnaire of symptoms, before workers enter the workplace;

• immediately isolate and remove sick workers; and

• perform frequent and routine environmental cleaning and disinfection of high-touch areas with an EPA-approved disinfectant for the virus that causes COVID-19.

Cooper’s order says it may be necessary to reinstate certain restrictions he eased if there is an increase in the percentage of emergency department visits due to COVID-19-like illness, the number of laboratory-confirmed cases, positive tests as a percent of total tests or COVID-19-related hospitalizations that threaten the ability of the health care system to properly respond.

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