RALEIGH — Gov. Roy Cooper announced on Aug. 5 that North Carolina will remain in the “safer at home” Phase 2 of the statewide reopening plan for five more weeks.
“With the opening of schools, people will move around more and so will the virus,” Cooper said at a press briefing in Raleigh. “Other states that lifted restrictions quickly have had to go backward as their hospital capacity ran dangerously low and their cases jumped higher. We won’t make that mistake in North Carolina.”
N.C. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen said that officials believe they are beginning to see COVID-19 numbers stabilize in North Carolina.
“My glimmer of hope remains as we see subtle signs of progress,” Cohen said.
But Cohen noted that the reopening of schools and colleges and universities in the coming weeks will represent a “new phase” in the response.
“The opening of schools and colleges is an important one — education must go on, even in a pandemic,” Cooper said. “In-person learning has benefits. But it means challenges for our state, especially as our higher education campuses draw students from around the country and the world.
“Our success at returning thousands of students, teachers and staff safely to classrooms this month depends on us doing what works,” Cooper added. “Most North Carolinians are doing their part to slow the spread of COVID-19 — wearing a mask, waiting six feet apart and washing hands often.”
Cooper said that “experts” believe the state’s mandatory mask order that took effect June 26 helped stabilize the state’s numbers.
“We began to see stabilization about two or three weeks after that order,” Cooper said. “We know that that’s having a positive effect.”
On July 31, a new restriction took effect that prohibits restaurants from selling alcohol after 11 p.m. In announcing the restriction, Cooper said the measure was particularly important as colleges and universities prepared to reopen, noting an increase in case numbers among young people.
“These simple strategies are more important than ever,” he continued. “It’s time to double down on them. The more people who do this, the better our health and economy will be.”
Cohen said the reason for the five-week extension of Phase 2 — compared with the three-week extensions that have occurred since June — is to give officials time “to have a good line of sight” on whether trends are going to remain stable or go upward or downward as schools reopen over the course of a few weeks.