News: Quick Takes

Retail businesses face new social distancing mandates, governor says

Gov. Roy Cooper speaks at a Coronavirus Task Force briefing April 3, 2020. (Pool photo from Department of Public Safety)
Gov. Roy Cooper speaks at a Coronavirus Task Force briefing April 3, 2020. (Pool photo from Department of Public Safety)

Expect Gov. Roy Cooper to set new limits on shopping alongside new benefits for child care centers serving health care and other “essential” workers. 

At a Coronavirus Task Force briefing Tuesday, April 7, Cooper also defended the Division of Employment Security as it faces withering criticism for its slow handling of unemployment insurance claims.

Cooper said retailers haven’t uniformly enforced social distancing guidelines at their businesses. He’ll issue an executive order later this week tightening those restrictions, perhaps limiting how many people can be inside a store and in line outside it. The governor emphasized the importance of social distancing in preventing the spread of COVID-19. “It is our best weapon in this fight,” he said.

The governor suggested he may relax the stay-at-home order when it expires April 29, saying his team is looking at models, evaluating when he thinks it will be safe to resume normal activities. For now, people should stay home when possible. He didn’t say when he would update the stay-at-home order.

As for delays in unemployment benefits, Cooper said every state has a timeliness problem. DES has contracted with a call center and added servers, letting more applicants be online at once. “There is a strong realization that everybody needs to pick up the pace to deal with this overwhelming crush of claims,” he said. 

Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen previewed another executive order fast-tracking child care. The program will give child care facilities a $300 monthly bonus to pay early education teachers and a $200 monthly bonus for other staff members.

Without revealing details, she mentioned an executive order relaxing regulations and allowing hospitals to deploy more beds for COVID-19 patients, as well as allowing more medical professionals to serve patients.

The latest figures show North Carolina has 3,221 COVID-19 cases in 90 counties and 46 deaths.