Phase Two of North Carolina’s three-phase reopening plan starts at 5 p.m. Friday, May 22, Gov. Roy Cooper confirmed on Wednesday.
This second phase loosens restrictions on businesses that have been partially or completely closed since the governor’s March 17 stay-at-home order shut down all but essential services to help slow the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The state has been in the first phase of the plan for going on two weeks, with the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services monitoring a combination of metrics — such as COVID-like syndromic cases, lab-confirmed cases, positive tests as a percentage of total tests and hospitalizations — to ensure that the state can safely enter its second phase by May 22.
Phase One opened some non-essential businesses, loosened restrictions on church gatherings and opened state parks.
In Phase Two, restaurant dining rooms, hair and nail salons, public swimming pools, gyms and playgrounds are addressed.
Here are some common questions and answers about what will change in Phase Two.
Can restaurants and bars reopen?
Restaurants have been allowed to stay open throughout Cooper’s original stay-at-home order, but only for takeout or delivery; dining rooms have been closed since March 17.
Under Phase Two, restaurant dining rooms can open at 50% capacity, which allows for greater physical distancing within the restaurant. But bars can NOT open at this time.
According to the North Carolina Restaurant and Lodging Association, restaurants will have to follow specific guidelines to open. Tables and counter seating must be arranged to achieve at least six feet of separation between parties for both indoor and outdoor dining.
Restaurants that expect lines to form near cash registers or outside must mark waiting spaces six feet apart.
Face coverings are recommended for restaurant staff, but not explicitly required.
Other guidance includes ongoing cleaning and sanitizing of doors and doorknobs and frequent handwashing. Restaurants are required to screen employees daily for coronavirus symptoms and to post signs asking any guests feeling symptomatic to leave.
However, some of the Triangle’s top restaurateurs have previously said that opening at partial capacity is not practical, and that they prefer to continue with takeout and delivery until they can open at full capacity.
When can restaurants open at full capacity?
Cooper has previously said that North Carolina could allow restaurants to increase capacity during Phase Three, which could be at least five weeks after Phase Two. We’re looking at the end of June or early July, if all goes well.
Plexiglas and fewer tables: As NC restaurants weigh reopening, here’s what to expect.
When can we visit hair and nail salons?
Cooper included hair salons, barber shops and nail salons in the “personal care” group of businesses that can start to reopen during Phase Two — but with strict rules about distancing, capacity and cleaning. Those businesses must operate a reduced capacity in salon areas and in waiting rooms. Employees must wear face coverings when in contact with customers, and customers are strongly encouraged to wear face coverings. All chairs, capes, tools and other equipment must be cleaned between clients if they come in contact with clients.
When can I get a tattoo?
Tattoo parlors are included in the “personal care” category and are open during Phase Two. Workers must also wear face coverings when in contact with customers and practice enhanced cleaning procedures.
When will gyms reopen?
Gyms are not allowed to reopen during Phase Two.
Can public swimming pools reopen?
Pools can reopen at 50% capacity in Phase Two, but that doesn’t mean they all will — at least not right away.
The City of Raleigh has delayed opening its four outdoor and four indoor pools until at least June 26. Durham has told The News & Observer it plans to open its indoor pools June 1, but a city spokeswoman said Thursday that Durham would not open its outdoor pools at all this season. Knightdale tentatively plans to open its pool June 6. Chapel Hill, which operates one indoor and one outdoor pool, has not announced a plan for opening those.
Pools run by neighborhood groups, apartments, home owner associations and clubs could open sooner than public pools, but they’ll all have to follow cleaning and distancing rules.
Some pools will open this weekend, but they’ll look different. Others are waiting.
This is what the CDC recommends.
For pool patrons: The CDC recommends visitors to pools wash their hands often, cover their coughs and sneezes, wear a cloth face covering whenever possible (but NOT in the water). Visitors are also asked to not go to a pool if they feel sick or if they have tested positive for COVID-19 or been exposed to someone who has tested positive in the past 14 days.
For pool staff: The CDC recommends pools be equipped with hand sanitizing supplies and that they post signs and make announcements about how to stop the spread of the virus. Pools must also clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces and shared objects often, and set up a system for keeping cleaned furniture and equipment separate from items that need to be disinfected. Pools must also arrange seating and lounging areas so that individuals can remain at least six feet part from those they do not live with.
Rules may vary from pool to pool, with many instituting “no guest” policies, eliminating pool parties and banning the use of pool toys or floats. If you have access to a pool through a neighborhood or club, check with them to learn specific rules before arriving.
Will playgrounds open?
City parks and playgrounds are not open during Phase Two, since public playground equipment may increase the spread of COVID-19.
Are childcare centers now open for everyone?
Yes, childcare and daycare centers — previously open for children of essential workers and then open for children of working parents — are now open for all. They must continue to follow NCDHHS guidelines, which includes daily health screenings of all who enter a facility.
What about overnight and day camps for kids?
Those can open during Phase Two, and they must follow the same guidelines set for childcare centers.
When can we go to concerts and shows?
Entertainment venues to continue to remain closed during Phase Two.
What other types of venues are still prohibited during Phase Two?
The list of prohibited entertainment and recreational venues listed in Cooper’s Executive Order include: bingo parlors, bowling alleys, indoor exercise facilities (including yoga studios, dance studios, martial arts facilities, indoor trampoline and rock climbing facilities), gyms, indoor fitness facilities (including but not limited to indoor basketball courts, volleyball courts, racquetball courts, squash courts and tennis courts), movie theaters, skating rinks, gaming establishments (video poker, video games, arcades, etc.), venues for receptions or parties, museums, amusement parks, nightclubs, dance halls and music halls.
Are gatherings still limited to 10 people?
Gatherings are limited to 10 people indoors or 25 people outdoors, in a confined area. This also applies to people that may gather together in a park, and on a beach or trail.
What if my county has different rules?
Whoever has the stricter rules — whether it’s the state or your home county — those are the rules you must follow.
Can I look at houses for sale or sell my house?
You can conduct real estate transactions so long as other guidelines are followed, such as limits on gatherings of people. That means some open houses may not be possible, but you could set up a private showing.
Can I visit relatives in a nursing home or jail?
Rules for nursing homes and other congregate living facilities remain unchanged during Phase Two. To prevent the spread of COVID-19, North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services recommends all facilities that serve as residences for people at high-risk not allow visitors unless it is an end-of-life visit.
When can senior citizens and people with medical conditions go back out?
Even during Phase Two, Cooper’s guidelines still encourage “vulnerable populations to continue staying home.” During Phase Three, which could come a minimum of four to six weeks after Phase Two, the guidelines call for lessening restrictions for vulnerable populations, but with “encouragement to continue practicing physical distancing.”
Staff writers Drew Jackson and Martha Quillin contributed to this report.