Gov. Roy Cooper was noncommittal during a Monday, May 4 news conference on whether the state will begin to ease COVID-19 restrictions on May 8, or extend the order.

North Carolina is poised to become one of the last states to begin reopening as the rest of the country slowly lifts restrictions on the economy.

The governor signed a pair of COVID-19 relief bills amounting to roughly $1.6 billion during the news conference, but he didn’t guarantee the state would lift some restrictions this weekend, when his statewide stay-at-home order is set to expire. 

Cooper’s administration announced in late April a three-pronged approach to reopening the state.

Under Phase 1, most restrictions would remain in place, including restricting restaurants to takeout orders only. Parks could reopen and more shopping options would be available, but social gatherings would still be limited to no more than 10 people. 

Cooper didn’t specify during the news conference which businesses would be allowed to operate. Grocery stores, big retailers, and pharmacies are open, but gyms, hair and nail salons, and other small businesses remain closed.

More information on what Phase 1 would look like will be shared in the next couple of days, the governor said. 

“We are still analyzing our indicators — our testing, tracing, and trends — and talking with health care experts and getting a lot of advice from businesses on what we can do,” Cooper said. 

Cooper was optimistic the state could enter the first phase and lift some restrictions this weekend, but he cautioned against opening too much too soon. 

If the situation isn’t safe and people don’t feel safe, then opening up won’t work the way people want it to, Cooper said. The state runs the risk of seeing a spike in cases and deaths if too many restrictions are lifted too soon. 

North Carolina had 11,848 COVID-19 cases and 430 deaths as of Monday afternoon. Nearly 500 people are hospitalized with COVID-19. One million people have filed for unemployment in North Carolina since March. Just 444,422 of those have been paid, the N.C. Division of Employment Security says on its website. 

While North Carolina considers lifting some restrictions this weekend, neighboring states are starting to reopen. South Carolina and Georgia have lifted restrictions on certain businesses and opened beaches and parks. Georgia has more than double the number of COVID-19 cases than North Carolina. South Carolina has fewer cases than both states. 

Some Northeast states have formed a coalition to coordinate reopening the economy, including New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts.