Cooper Signs Executive Order 138—Phase 1 to commence on Friday

On Tuesday evening, Governor Cooper signed Executive Order 138 “Easing Restrictions on Travel, Business Operations, and Mass Gatherings: Phase 1.” Through this Order, the Governor begins to implement his plan to re-open businesses and other functions of our state’s economy. This order will take effect at 5:00 PM on Friday, May 8 and will likely remain active until at least May 22.

This plan does not differ significantly from what he unveiled about one week ago as a part of a three-phase proposal to protect against further growth in the number of COVID-19 cases.

In addition to the full text of the Executive Order, the Governor’s office also released an FAQ regarding the order and a graphical look at what is different between the current stay-at-home order and what will take effect on May 8.

A Phase 1 Deep Dive

As the state moves into Phase 1 of the Governor’s re-opening plans, we wanted to take a closer look at what that means both for your business and your life in general.

The information presented is drawn from staff analysis of the Order, as well as the FAQ and comparison documents released by the Governor’s office on Tuesday.

  • Commercial Activity: Under Phase 1, people are allowed to leave their homes for commercial activity and more businesses (not just essential businesses) will be allowed to open. Remote work is still encouraged if possible.
  • Retail and Restaurants: Retail stores will be able to increase their capacity (up to 50%–increase from 20%), provided those stores continue cleaning protocols and social distancing. Even under Phase 1, Restaurants and bars, though, are still limited to take-out or delivery only. These businesses are expected to be allowed to re-open with limited capacity in Phase 2.
  • Gatherings: While gatherings of groups of 10 people or less have been allowed under the existing order, Phase 1 expands the allowance to gatherings of 10 people or less, including friends, outdoors. One important caveat to this: while Phase 1 also strongly encourages the re-opening of parks, playgrounds will continue to remain closed.
  • Areas for Mass Gatherings (Theaters, Music Venues, Bowling Alleys, and Gyms): These locations will all remain closed during Phase 1. It is likely that some of them will be allowed to re-open with limited capacity and increased cleaning in Phase 2.
  • Personal Care and Grooming Businesses: Due to the close proximity and direct client interaction required in these businesses, they will remain closed during Phase 1.
  • Face Coverings: As they have been, face coverings (i.e., masks) are encouraged during Phase 1.
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