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CoastLine: NC Moves To Phase 1 Reopening As Testing Increases, Antibody Testing Still On Hold

Many grocery stores encourage customers to wear masks, but few require them.

North Carolina is set to launch Phase One of its reopening 5 pm on Friday, May 8th.  There are four major metrics that state officials are watching to see how the Covid-19 pandemic is playing out in the state.  

These data points, which guide the decision-making about re-opening, are the number of hospitalizations for Covid-19, the number of lab-confirmed cases, the percentage of positive tests, and the number of Emergency Room visits from people reporting Covid-like symptoms.  All of these metrics are stabilizing or ticking down, according to Mandy Cohen, Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, with one exception.  The number of confirmed positive cases is ticking up, but officials say that’s to be expected with the recent increase in testing. 

So what does Phase One mean?  First, and probably most importantly, it does NOT mean that the Stay At Home order is lifted.  That Order is in place but modified – giving people more reasons to leave their homes.  The designation between essential and non-essential businesses is gone, so stores can re-open at 50% capacity. 

However, personal care businesses -- hair and nail salons, barbers, gyms, entertainment venues – these must remain closed in Phase 1 since social distancing is essentially impossible there.  Restaurants are also still banned from dine-in options and must continue takeout business only. 

We’ve also just learned from DHHS that more than half of North Carolina adults are at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19.  The reason:  the majority of the state’s population is 65 or older, has at least one underlying health condition or fits into both categories. 

The public policy around the Coronavirus restrictions is controversial. Reopen NC supporters are pushing for an even greater loosening of restrictions.  Opponents of reopening worry anew about spikes in positive cases, hospitalizations, and deaths.


Dr. Paul Kamitsuka, Hospital Epidemiologist, New Hanover Hanover Regional Medical Center; Infectious Diseases Consultant, Wilmington Health

Lisa BrownPublic Health Preparedness Coordinator, New Hanover County


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Rachel hosts and produces CoastLine, an award-winning hourlong conversation featuring artists, humanitarians, scholars, and innovators in North Carolina. The show airs Wednesdays at noon and Sundays at 2 pm on 91.3 FM WHQR Public Media. It's also available as a podcast; just search CoastLine WHQR. You can reach her at rachellh@whqr.org.