City, Coronavirus

North Carolina’s reopening plan

Photo by @saltysam94

As of Friday, June 26, Governor Roy Cooper has extended Phase Two of the three-phase play to lift current stay-at-home restrictions.

What is the difference between the phases, exactly?

Table of Contents

Phase One

○ The distinction between essential and non-essential businesses will be removed.
○  Bars, personal care businesses (like hair and nail salons), entertainment venues + gyms are not yet allowed to reopen.
○ Restaurants cannot offer dine-in and will have to continue services  on a takeout and delivery basis.
○ Stores — including those that sell clothing, sporting goods, and housewares — are permitted to reopen, but will be limited to 50% capacity at all times and must follow strict cleaning guidelines.
Small outdoor gatherings of no more than 10 people will be allowed while maintaining CDC social distancing.
○ Childcare centers will be allowed to open, but they must follow strict cleaning guidelines. Summer day camps will also be allowed to open.
Outdoor-only religious services with more than 10 people will be allowed. Congregants must maintain at least six feet of physical distance at all times + are encouraged to wear a face mask.
Hiking and biking trails, boat ramps, and restrooms will be open at all NC state parks except Gorges State Park in Transylvania County.
Restrictions on nursing homes and other congregate care facilities will remain in effect.

Phase Two

The statewide stay-at-home order is lifted.
Restaurants + personal care businesses (such as hair + nail salons and tattoo parlors) can reopen at 50% capacity. Face coverings are required for those who work in personal care and are recommended for customers.
Bars, nightclubs, gyms and other indoor fitness facilities remain closed. Bars may sell beer, wine or liquor to go.

○ Outdoor gatherings — including but not limited to venues, meetings, sporting arenas, beaches + parks — are permitted to have 25 people, an increase from 10. Social distancing is still encouraged.
Indoor gatherings are limited to 10 people with social distancing in mind.
○ Public playgrounds will not reopen.
○ Overnight and day camps are permitted to reopen with the requirement that they do daily health screenings of staff + campers.
Swimming pools can reopen at 50% capacity or no more than one person per 33 square feet of deck area. 10 people can be in the pool for every 1,000 square feet.
Religious and worship services, funerals + weddings are now exempt from any restrictions.
○ The same rules and restrictions from Phase One remain place at nursing homes and other multi-resident care facilities

Phase Three will take effect approximately 3 weeks from now, meaning Friday, July 17, as long as certain key health indicators are established between now and then.

In addition, a new executive order now requires face coverings to be worn across the state in public and private spaces, whenever social distancing of 6+ feet is not possible. This mandate takes effect at 5 p.m. today and includes:

🔸 Grocery stores + retail
🔸 Salons
🔸 Child-care centers
🔸 Public transportation + ride-shares
🔸 Restaurants (can be removed when customers are at their table)

Exceptions are in place for: individuals under 11 years of age, anyone who is actively eating or drinking, people who are exercising + those who cannot wear masks due to health reasons or religious observances.


🔹 What about the NC statutes that prohibit the wearing of face masks in public? In April, the General Assembly passed the following addendum under NCGS 14-12.11(a)(6) which you can view on page 35 of the COVID-19 response bill S704 — “Any person wearing a mask for the purpose of ensuring the physical health or safety of the wearer or others” is exempt from statutes 14-12.7 thru 14-12.11.
🔹 What qualifies as a face covering? Any mask, scarf, bandanna, or etc. made from cloth which effectively covers the nose and mouth.
🔹 Do I have to wear a mask outdoors? Yes, masks are required to be worn on sidewalks, parks, and in public areas when other exemptions (such as exercise) don’t apply.
🔹 Can I travel? Residents can travel as needed, but will be subject to COVID-19 related restrictions at their destination. Anyone traveling from NC to New York, New Jersey, or Connecticut is required (by those state’s jurisdictions) to self-quarantine for two weeks upon arrival.
🔹 When will gyms, bars, and playgrounds reopen? The reopening of these establishments has been postponed until at least July 17, the new target date for moving into Phase Three. The NC House attempted to override the Governor’s veto of a bill that would have reopened gyms and bars, but there were not enough votes.
🔹 How will the mask requirement be enforced? Citations may be issued to businesses that do not enforce the mask requirement for employees and customers. Law enforcement is not sanctioned to cite individual employees for non-compliance + will lean on education protocols rather than criminal enforcement for the general public.


Originally published May 21 + updated June 26. This article features contributions and research from Erin McPherson + Trevor Peters.