North Carolina’s Phased Re-opening Plan Explained

Cary, NC — As we move toward the end of the stay-at-home tunnel, North Carolina will be transitioning to its new normal in 3 gradual stages.

NC Governor Roy Cooper laid out the 3-phase road map for lifting the state-wide restrictions in a press briefing just under 2 weeks ago. Each of the phases will be achieved through reaching certain metrics based on testing, tracing and trends rather than a specific timeline.

The key to having fewer state-mandated restrictions is seeing a steady decrease in the number of cases and hospitalizations and an increase in the amounts of testing, tracing and available protective equipment.

With the state-wide Stay at Home Order set to expire this Friday, May 8, 2020, these are the phases to come.

Phase 1

Note: This phase is set to take effect on Friday, May 8 at 5 P.M.

Allowing Commercial Travel

The NC Stay at Home order would stay in place, but be modified to allow travel not currently defined as essential. This would allow people to leave home for commercial activity at any business allowed to be open. This will include clothing stores, sporting goods stores, book shops, houseware stores and other retailers.

Stores Must Follow Stricter Protocols

The state would require that any open stores practice employee and customer social distancing along with enhanced hygiene and cleaning protocols. Stores would be encouraged to screen employees for symptoms and make accommodations for vulnerable workers.

Gathering Sizes, Opening Parks, and More

Phase 1 would also include:

  • Limiting gatherings to no more than 10 people
  • Reopening parks that have been closed subject to the same gathering limitation
  • Recommended face coverings in public spaces when 6 feet of distancing isn’t possible
  • Encouraging employers to continue teleworking policies
  • The continuance of rigorous restrictions in nursing homes and in other congregant care settings
  • Local emergency orders with more restrictive measures may remain in place

Phase 2

This playground at North Cary Park and many others around the state would reopen during Phase 2.

Phase 2 would be in place at least 2-3 weeks after phase 1 has begun

Stay at Home Order Lifted

Upon the start of phase two, the Stay At Home order would be lifted with strong encouragement for vulnerable populations to continue staying at home to be safe.

More Business Openings

Limited opening of restaurants, bars, fitness centers, personal care services, and other businesses will be allowed. This is for businesses that can follow safety protocols including the potential need to reduce capacity.

Gatherings, Playgrounds and More

Phase 2 would also include:

  • Allowed gathering at places such as houses of worship and entertainment venues at reduced capacity
  • Increase in the number of people allowed at gatherings
  • Open public playgrounds
  • Continue rigorous restrictions on nursing homes and other congregant care settings

Phase 3

Phase 3 would be in place at least 4-6 weeks after phase 2 has begun

The restrictions lifted in this final phase include:

  • Easing of restrictions for vulnerable populations with encouragement to continue practicing physical distancing and minimizing exposure to settings where distancing isn’t possible
  • Allowing increased capacity at restaurants, bars, other businesses, houses of worships, and entertainment venues
  • Further increase in the number of people allowed at gatherings
  • Continuance of rigorous restrictions on nursing homes and other congregant care settings


Note: The details of the phases are subject to change and if there is a spike in infections, tightening of restrictions may be temporarily issued.

Story and playground photo by Ashley Kairis. Featured image courtesy of the Governor’s website.