Cooper Tightens Restrictions On Retail Businesses

Orders nursing homes to do more

As expected, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper issued an executive order tightening the restrictions on retail businesses and nursing homes across the state in the battle against the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) Thursday afternoon.

The executive order calls for retail businesses to limit the number of people in the store at a time. Under Cooper’s order, effective Monday at 5 p.m., stores will now be required to make sure the number of people in the store does not exceed 20% of the fire capacity or allows only five people in stores for every 1,000 square feet of floor space.

The order also directs retail stores to mark areas where customers stand in line to show the 6 foot social distancing restriction and requires more frequent cleaning and sanitizing.

“Even as we follow the stay-at-home order, there are essential reasons to leave the house,” Cooper said, “like for groceries or medicine and we want to be sure the retail stores are safe for everyone and so no one is afraid to go out for basic necessities.”

While not ordering, the governor continued to suggest retailers make hand sanitizer available for all, install shields at checkouts and make aisles one way to prevent congestion and having dedicated shopping hours for the elderly and persons who fall under the high-risk category.

“I know a number of stores have already taken steps like these and more, to make sure their customers and employees are safe,” he said. “And I thank them for their efforts.”

The second part of the order turned suggestions into requirements. They include no longer allow dining or group activities in common areas, requires face masks for employees and requires nursing homes to screen employees and residents for symptoms of the virus.

“We strongly encourage other long-term facilities to follow these same guidelines,” Cooper said. “We’re focusing efforts on these congregate care institutions since the nature of the virus makes them easy targets for outbreaks.”

An outbreak is declared when two or more people within a location test positive for the virus.

Cooper also loosened the rules further to make it easier for unemployment claims to be processed faster. One component includes making it easier to file a batch of claims for their employees, a practice known as an attached claim.

“By temporarily eliminating some of the hurdles for these employers, we hope to get benefits in the hands of those that need them faster,” Cooper said.

Since March, the unemployment claims have totaled more than 497,000, with over $40.3 million in payments with more going out each day, he said.

Federal officials have provided the state guidance on handing out an additional $600 of unemployment payments, which are now expected to be disbursed starting next week.

“Time is critical and precious for those who are out of work,” he said. “I, my staff and the secretary of commerce are pushing the department to move as fast as possible.”

Violations of the executive order are class II misdemeanors, Cooper said.

-Dunn Daily Record