As Gov. Roy Cooper prepares to remove the stay at home order he implemented on March 27 by initiating the second of three-phases of easing of COVID-19-related restrictions, there is good cause to consider opening some parts of the state faster than others.

Phase one is currently scheduled to expire Friday and officials need to decide if North Carolina is ready to move to the next stage.

Cooper has said state officials would consider varying what happens based on conditions in different areas, as has been done in some other states.

The different regions of North Carolina are at different stages in the coronavirus pandemic and variables impacting conditions differ across the state, especially in rural versus urban areas. It makes sense to allow some flexibility by not using a one size shoe fits all approach.

In phase two, vulnerable populations such as the elderly and those with compromised immune systems would be encouraged to remain at home. The limit on mass gatherings would be further relaxed by allowing more people at events, and public playgrounds could open again.

Restaurants and bars would be allowed to serve customers with on-site dining, but at a reduced capacity. Entertainment venues would be able to reopen, but also at a reduced capacity. Restrictions on nursing homes and other congregate care facilities would remain in place.

We’re not saying that the timing should vary on a county-by-county basis or that individual counties should decide this, although it does make sense to give serious consideration to the input of county officials in this decision-making process.

The prevalence of COVID-19 could be near its most critical point yet in Wilkes County due to the outbreak at the Tyson Foods Inc. chicken processing complex in Wilkesboro.

The worst of the impact of the virus on Wilkes and some nearby counties could be yet to come because of the outbreak at the Tyson complex.

The worst community-wide COVID-19 outbreaks in rural counties across the nation have resulted from the virus spreading from poultry, beef or pork processing facilities.

This impact in other parts of the country is one of the reasons Tyson Foods or government officials (state or local) should tell the public the number of positive COVID-19 cases resulting from testing the 3,000-some people working at the complex in Wilkesboro.

There is fear among public health experts nationwide of prematurely easing restrictions that have helped limit the spread of the virus. Not considering differing circumstances in different locales ultimately could cause more loss of life.

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