News: Quick Takes

Newest Cooper COVID-19 order cuts number of shoppers allowed in stores

Gov. Roy Cooper at a COVID-19 briefing. (Pool photo from N.C. Department of Public Safety)
Gov. Roy Cooper at a COVID-19 briefing. (Pool photo from N.C. Department of Public Safety)

North Carolina merchants will have even fewer shoppers next week, thanks to an executive order Gov. Roy Cooper announced at a Thursday, April 9 news conference.

Beginning Monday at 5 p.m., stores still allowed to operate must limit the number of people indoors to no more than 20% of the stated fire capacity — or five people for every 1,000 square feet. They’ll also have to mark spots six feet apart at places customers are likely to gather, like checkout lines. And staff will have to clean and sanitize areas frequently.

The penalty for violating the order is a Class 2 misdemeanor, but Cooper said a lot of merchants already were following these guidelines. He expects the rest will do so, too.

The new limits expand earlier statewide orders banning sit-down dining at restaurants and private clubs, closing businesses deemed “non-essential,” outlawing gatherings of 10 people or more, and enforcing a stay-at-home order, with some exceptions, through April 29. Localities can impose even tighter limits. Many have.

Cooper hasn’t said if he’ll extend the stay-at-home order.

Thursday’s executive order has two other provisions.

The first bans dining and social activities in common areas at nursing homes. It requires nursing homes to screen employees and residents for COVID-19 symptoms. The Department of Health and Human Services earlier issued these as guidelines. But an outbreak at an Orange County nursing home resulting in two deaths and seven hospital admissions led the governor to make the suggestions mandatory.

The final part of the executive order could speed unemployment benefits to workers by letting companies file claims in batches, otherwise known as “attached claims.”

The state Division of Employment Security has received nearly half a million claims for unemployment insurance since March 16. DES was ranked last in the nation by the federal government for paying benefits in a timely manner before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Cooper said there were 3,651 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in North Carolina and 65 deaths.