North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper announced Wednesday that Phase Two of the state’s reopening plan will be extended until at least Sept. 11, keeping coronavirus restrictions in place through the Labor Day weekend.
Cooper said health experts need that additional five weeks to look at trends as schools — universities and K-12 — reopen over the next few weeks.
His Wednesday announcement comes as Dr. Mandy Cohen, secretary of the state’s Department of Heath and Human Services, said the four major metrics the state uses to analyze the virus’ spread show stabilization. She said the number of cases is still too high and she wants to maintain that stability.
“We know what works, we’re going to continue to stick with it,” Cohen told reporters at a news briefing Wednesday. “I know it takes a lot of vigilance,” she said, to follow wearing a mask, keeping social distancing and washing hands.
“As I said last week,” Cooper said during the press conference, “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.”
This is the third time Cooper has kept restrictions that limit the size of gatherings indoors and outdoors in retail stores, restaurants and other businesses. The restrictions also keep bars, gyms, entertainment venues and some other establishments closed in the pandemic.
The state has been in Phase Two of COVID-19 restrictions on business and leisure activity since May 22. Restaurant dining rooms are allowed to have 50% occupancy, as are personal care businesses such as barbershops, salons and tattoo parlors.
Cooper did say a move to Phase Three isn’t dependent upon an effective vaccine being available.
“We would hope that we could move along in our phases, even before a vaccine is in effect,” Cooper said.
STUDENTS PREPARE TO BEGIN SCHOOL
Cooper’s decision comes as students in public schools prepare to begin school later this month, many with only virtual classes.