April Thomas of the Bell Tree Tavern

April Thomas of the Bell Tree Tavern in Southern Pines tests out a temperature-checking kiosk in preparation for the restaurant’s reopening on Friday. The device was developed by Meridian Kiosks of Aberdeen.

Many North Carolinians were surprised by Gov. Roy Cooper’s announcement of a modified “safer-at-home” order.

As anticipated, the order moves the state into the second phase of Cooper’s three-stage plan to slowly ease restrictions enacted to curb the spread of COVID-19. But the new mandate, which replaces the statewide stay-at-home order, contains fewer changes than expected.

“North Carolina is using the data to guide our decisions about when to lift COVID-19 restrictions, and overall our key indicators remain stable,” Cooper said in a statement on Wednesday. “Safer At Home Phase 2 is another careful step forward, and we have to continue taking this virus seriously to prevent a dangerous spike in infections.”

Following are answers to some questions you may have about the new executive order.

What can reopen?

The order, which takes effect at 5 p.m. on Friday, allows restaurants to reopen for dine-in service at 50% capacity with mandatory social distancing between groups of customers.

Barbershops, hair salons, tattoo parlors and massage businesses, which have all been closed since March 25, will also be allowed to reopen at 50% capacity, though most employees must wear face coverings and customers must stay 6 feet apart. Swimming pools can reopen at 50% capacity, too.

What was supposed to reopen, but won’t?

Earlier guidance suggested that bars, gyms and public playgrounds might be allowed to reopen during Phase 2, but Cooper said these places will remain closed as the state takes a more “modest” approach to easing restrictions.

When will these places reopen?

Likely not until Phase 3, which could begin after the new order expires on June 26. Movie theaters, spas, bowling alleys, dance studios, museums, bingo halls, basketball courts and many other places are also expected to remain closed for the next five weeks.

Can I attend indoor worship services?

Yes, though many places of worship across Moore County are voluntarily offering online or outdoor services in an effort to keep their congregations safe. These services are recommended for older residents, individuals with underlying medical conditions and people in other groups known to be especially vulnerable to the coronavirus.

Can I host or attend a party?

Maybe settle for a soirée? Under the new order, “get-togethers that do not have more than ten people indoors, or 25 people outdoors” are permitted.

Should I continue to work from home?

It’s “strongly encouraged,” according to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. The department is also urging residents to avoid “non-essential travel and in-person meetings.”

Should I continue to wear a face covering in public?

Yes, according to state health officials.

(11) comments

Stephen Woodward

South Carolina bound in the AM. Get me outta here. And when we come back we will visit a different restaurant every day. No masks. Just smiles.

Kent Misegades

And Georgia and Florida are moving ahead as we in NC watch our dollars head for the border. “ One week after Georgia allowed dine-in restaurants, hair salons and other businesses to reopen, an additional 62,440 visitors arrived there daily, most from surrounding states where such businesses remained shuttered, according to an analysis of smartphone location data.” Other reports are showing - the 21 states moving ahead are seeing no rise in Wuhan flu issues as a result. No surprise, most of these are red states led by Conservatives.

Kent Misegades

And now Tennessee moves further ahead of North Carolina, thanks to its Republican Governor Bill Lee. No income tax state. “Tennessee issued new business guidance Wednesday that will end capacity restrictions for restaurants and retail shops and permit large noncontact attractions to open in 89 of the state’s 95 counties.

Attractions that now can reopen include amusement parks, zoos, large museums and theaters.” Governor Cooper, just like former President Obama: “Leading from behind.”

Carol Hoffman

Jaymie, by not explaining why the governor and Mandy Cohen chose to reduce the number of businesses that could open, do you have left it to the imaginations of the readers to interpret their reasoning. They clearly explained how the data was not strong enough for riskier Indoor group gatherings. They are using science to protect us and wisdom to not move too quickly so that “opening” could end up needing to be reversed. I want to go to the gym, too, but am willing to wait to protect YOUR AND MY health.

John Makovitch


You apparently have no income issues. Look at Florida and Georgia. Been open for a few weeks. The wimpy Governor and his lackey are more worried about his Political career. You stay home. The rest of us are ready to live our lives.

Jim Tomashoff

Gee I sure hope you don't catch anything. Shake hands, hugs, share bottles, with all your pals. Then we'll just let Social Darwinism do its thing.

Kent Misegades

Movie theaters are open - in South Carolina. The nearest is perhaps those in Hartsville, a pleasant 1.5 hour drive from here. Nearby is McLeod Farms in McBee, home to some of the best fruit in the region. Their roadside shop and farm museum are open, as are area restaurants. Nearby is the Sandhills State Forest with good trails for walking and cycling. On the way home stop by quaint Cheraw, SC, site of important battles in the Revolutionary War and the War of Northern Aggression. Enjoy area restaurants and cheap gasoline before returning north of the border. What is the major difference on the two Carolinas? South Carolina has a Republican Governor; ours is a Democrat. This is all across America - see the recent American Spectator article : “Coronavirus Deaths: The Most Predictive Factor - Your chance of dying from COVID-19 is notably higher if you live in a blue state.“

Dan Roman

More Kent world propaganda, citing The American Spectator, a conservative misinformation machine favored by the GOP (geriatric, obese, pigheaded) set. Maybe he should move to South Carolina if it's so wonderful, please, because it doesn't have a governor with the common sense that the governor of North Carolina displays.

Kent Misegades

Facts. Good luck in proving American Spectator wrong. Seek the truth and it will set you free.

Dan Roman

Just like "arbeit macht frei" (work sets you free), found over the gates of a number of concentration camps including Auschwitz?

John Makovitch

Hey Dan you must not have any financial issues. I'm guessing your now watching msnbc.

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