Executive order could limit number of customers in essential retailers, Gov. Cooper says


RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Gov. Roy Cooper said Tuesday he will sign more executive orders as part of North Carolina’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The governor has already signed several other executive orders including one to expand unemployment benefits and another which closed public schools through May 15.

Cooper said one order will help put “more guardrails on social distancing at essential retailers.”

“Physical distancing, hand washing, hyenine are the only weapons we have right now.  We don’t have vaccines,” said Cooper.

Target and Walmart are among the stores limiting the number of customers inside at one time and this order falls in line to make those changes mandatory at stores across the state.

“I know many stores have put limits on how many people can be in a store at once and this order will ensure those limits are mandatory across the state for retailers,” Cooper said.

Cooper said he would also like more stores to move to one way aisles, sneeze guards, and markings on the ground to remind people to stand six feet apart both inside and waiting outside to get into the store.

“We don’t want people to be afraid to go to the grocery store or pharmacy to get essential items, but we also want to discourage people who are just going to have something to do,” said Cooper.

Shoppers Tuesday outside of Raleigh’s Trader Joes supported the idea of stricter guidelines to encourage social distancing.

“Obviously we don’t know the full impact, but it seems to make the most sense to do something like that, to be more cautious,” said Zach Wood.

Cooper said he expects to sign another order which would fast track child care for doctors, nurses and other health care workers.

North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen said families that need financial support for childcare can find a form at ncdhhs.gov/coronavirus that they then bring to their selected childcare program.

“I am proud to share that we have created an Emergency Child Care Subsidy Program to support our essential workers. Through this new program – essential workers can get help finding child care and get help paying for that child care,” Cohen said.

The governor said the state has received FEMA approval to set up housing alternatives such as hotels or dorm rooms for people now living in shelters who contract the virus and need to be quarantined.

“This has been a real problem for local governments and we’re glad we can help with this,” Cooper said.

Cooper also touched on his stay-at-home order, which is set to expire April 29. He said while social distancing appears to be working in slowing the spread, it is unknown if he will need to extend the order.

“We just don’t know yet,” Cooper said.

Tuesday’s comments come as 46 deaths across the state are being blamed on COVID-19. The state has 3,221 cases in 90 counties and 354 patients in the hospital, according to Cohen.

All 100 of North Carolina’s counties have declared a state of emergency.

COVID-19 timeline

  • March 3: NCDHHS announces state’s first COVID-19 case
  • March 10: Gov. Roy Cooper declares State of Emergency
  • March 11: World Health Organization declares COVID-19 a pandemic
  • March 13: President Donald Trump declares a National Emergency
  • March 14: Cooper issues Executive Order 117 closing K-12 public schools until at least March 30 and banning gatherings of more than 100 people
  • March 16: NCDHHS recommends no mass gatherings for more than 50 people
  • March 17: Cooper issues Executive Order 118 limiting operations of restaurants and bars, and broadening unemployment insurance benefits
  • March 23: Cooper issues Executive Order 120 which closes public K-12 schools through May 15 and orders businesses such as barbershops and salons to close.
  • March 25: North Carolina reports its first coronavirus-related deaths
  • March 29: Trump extends social distancing orders through the end of April
  • March 31: Cooper signs Executive Order 124 which prohibits utilities from disconnecting people who are unable to pay during the pandemic.
  • April 7: Cooper will sign executive orders limiting customers in retailers and offers child care assistance to certain workers
  • April 14: Coronavirus-related deaths top 100 in North Carolina
  • April 24: Cooper extends stay-at-home order to May 8
  • May 5: Cooper announces Phase One of reopening will being May 8

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