Gov. Cooper extends Phase 2 in North Carolina until at least Sept. 11

Coronavirus

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Gov. Roy Cooper announced Wednesday that North Carolina will remain in Phase 2 of reopening until at least Sept. 11. The executive order extending Phase Two was set to expire Friday evening.

“Hospital administrators and health care providers continue to express concerns that unless the spread of COVID-19 is limited, existing health care facilities and resources may be insufficient to care for those who become sick,” the latest executive order said.

Cooper’s decision means bars, taverns, and gyms must remain closed. Cooper did point to other reopenings that will take place during August — namely schools and colleges. However, many school districts in central North Carolina are beginning the semester with online-only instruction. Enrollment for Wake County’s Virtual Academy has surged, as well.

“We know this stability is fragile and these trends can change quickly if we let down our guards,” Cooper said, also pointing to surges in other states that reopened “too soon.”

“We will not make that mistake in North Carolina,” he said.

The decision to extend phase two comes as people who are unemployed have stopped receiving $600 per week from the federal government in unemployment benefits. Congress is still debating an extension of that.  

The maximum benefit people can receive from the state is $350 per week.  

Bajon Aatnite, a personal trainer at O2 Fitness in Morrisville, was furloughed in March.  

“Our dreams, our hopes have been crushed a little bit. And, I’ll be honest, I’ve gotten a little bit jaded, a little bit cynical,” he said. “It’s just tough because you want to stay strong. You want to stay optimistic. I’m thinking about my family, and then I’m thinking about my clients.” 

Aatnite’s company is part of a group called Fitness Owners for Responsible Reopening, which has developed a series of protocols using CDC and state guidance to open their businesses. 

He said when gyms are allowed to reopen, there will be protocols in place such as giving members sanitizing spray bottles, spacing equipment out to maintain distancing, and limiting the number of people inside at one time. 

Leigh Cunius, regional manager for Orangetheory Growth Partners, said her company has reopened facilities in Iowa and Indiana. 

“Using CDC guidelines and that’s what they’ve been following in Iowa and Indiana and have had zero cases of transmission within their facilities,” she said. “We have had about 200,000 workouts in Iowa and Indiana so far.” 

The state of Louisiana has been tracking COVID-19 outbreaks in a variety of settings, including gyms, bars, and restaurants. Their data shows five outbreaks occurring in gym and fitness settings. The state has seen 41 outbreaks linked to bars and 36 outbreaks linked to restaurants. 

Some gyms have reopened in North Carolina under an exception that allows people to use them for exercise if it’s medically prescribed.   

North Carolina has had 2,050 deaths attributed to COVID-19, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services said Wednesday. It took 75 days from the first death to the 1,000th. It took 58 days from the 1,000th death to the 2,000th – and it took just one day to get to 2,050 from 2,010.

In addition to a jump in deaths, hospitalizations rose again for the second day in a row. There are now at least 1,167 people hospitalized in North Carolina due to COVID-19, an increase of 13 from Tuesday. Hospitalizations had dropped for five days in a row before rising again on Tuesday. The all-time high for hospitalizations came on July 28 when 1,236 people were hospitalized. That number dropped to 1,057 on Aug. 2.

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