Cautiously, governors nationwide are starting to talk about the inevitable — how to ease Covid-19 restrictions so that more businesses can reopen and more Americans can return to work.
North Carolina is no different.
At his Wednesday press briefing, Gov. Roy Cooper said three things must happen before the state’s economy can begin the healing process:
- widespread testing to determine who has been exposed to the coronavirus, which causes Covid-19
- the ability to trace the social contacts of those infected
- data showing that new infections are trending down.
“This virus is going to be with us until there is a vaccine, which may be a year or more away,” Cooper said. “That means that as we ease restrictions, we are going to enter a new normal. We want to get back to work while at the same time preventing a spike that will overwhelm our hospitals with Covid-19 cases.”
And what will that “new normal” look like?
Restaurants reopened, but with fewer customers seated, to allow for social distancing. Sporting events with no fans in the stands. Music concerts played to empty arenas.
Why it matters: Aside from the hurt being imposed on family finances and the overall economy, the nation’s near-total shutdown is starting to spawn political implications. In Washington, President Donald Trump is pushing governors to ease restrictions on schools and businesses. And in a growing number of state capitals, angry residents are starting to mount protests.
In Raleigh on Tuesday, where a “Reopen NC” rally attracted more than 100 people, a woman was arrested for violating Cooper’s stay-at-home order, according to the News & Observer. And in Charlotte this month, police arrested eight abortion protesters for the same alleged offense.
Some are beginning to question whether such arrests violate the U.S. Constitution.
Deputy Chief Jeff Estes of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department said CMPD is walking a fine line — wanting to protect the rights of citizens while also enforcing the state’s decree, which limits the size of gatherings and recommends that people, in most instances, maintain a 6-foot buffer between themselves.
“What we are trying to do is, under the guidance of the proclamation, ensure the rights of everyone are protected,” Estes told reporters on Wednesday.
Overall, he said, CMPD has seen “very good response” to the social distancing requirements.
“Whether or not someone is six feet apart from another person, we really can’t enforce on the whole,” he said. “That’s a guidance, that’s a recommendation, that’s not something that you see officers out with a tape measure out measuring distances between people.”
As of Wednesday, North Carolina had reported 5,123 confirmed cases of Covid-19 and 117 confirmed deaths.
The bottom line: The state’s stay-at-home decree is set to expire April 29. Cooper has not said whether he will extend it or ease restrictions.