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North Carolina’s Phase 1 is here! Stay at home. Go out. Go out some, but not out much. Go here. No, not there though. Whew, figuring this stuff out is getting exhausting.

As Fayetteville and the rest of the state begins Phase 1 of easing of restrictions related to the coronavirus prevention shutdown, there’s a lot of information going around. Much of it is confusing, and we want to help clear up some of the misinformation and frequently asked questions we’re seeing go around. Most importantly, we just want everyone to be safe and healthy. So as we hit 5 p.m. on Friday, May 8, when Governor Roy Cooper’s new order, EO 138, goes into place, let’s take a look at all this.

1. Do we still have to stay home under North Carolina’s Phase 1 or not?

Yes, you should stay at home as much as you possibly can still. Previously, we were technically only allowed out for essential services (like to get food or medical treatment, or to head to work). But now, you CAN go out for more non-essential reasons, but you’re strongly encouraged to stay home otherwise. The official “stay-at-home order” is still in place, it just modifies why you might not.

2. So, does this mean we are back open or not?

Short answer, not completely. It’s still really important to stay home, so we aren’t fully reopened yet. Community spread of COVID-19 is still incredibly dangerous risk, and we need to take all the precautions we can. But under North Carolina’s Phase 1 there’s no longer a distinction between “essential” and “non-essential” businesses. That means nearly all businesses can reopen. There are a few exceptions we’ll get to shortly.

3. When I go to a business, will it be just like before all this?

We certainly hope not. From a legal standpoint, there are some strict requirements for a business to follow if they want to open. They have to limit occupancy to 50 percent of fire capacity. They have to have the ability for 6-foot social distancing, and that must be clearly marked in high-traffic areas. They have to do more cleaning and disinfecting. There are a bunch of specific things they have to do, and this is all for the benefit of your health and well being. If a business is open and not following these guidelines, you probably shouldn’t be there.

4. Which businesses will be closed still?

Under North Carolina’s Phase 1, close contact businesses are still going to be shut down. This includes restaurants for dine-in service, personal care and grooming businesses (salons and barbers), health clubs, performance venues, movie theaters and more. Some of these will be able to open again, ideally in Phase 2. But a lot will depend on what happens over the next couple weeks.

5. So everyone should be going back to work, right?

No, definitely not yet. This order strongly encourages that whenever teleworking is possible, it should be done still. Obviously if a retail business is now opening that wasn’t before, they’ll need employees there. But where possible, most people should still stay at home.

6. Now I can hold my graduation parties and stuff like that right?

Again, not so much. The order allows for small gatherings outdoors, as long as there aren’t more than 10 people, and social distancing can happen. So if your backyard barbecue has only nine people and you’re all spread out effectively, you’re good there. But hold off on the parties for now. We’re not quite there yet.

7. If I’m going back to work, and schools are closed, what about childcare now?

Anybody that’s working at a business that’s allowed to be open, or is actively seeking employment, can utilize daycare facilities now. There are some strict orders on health and safety for how those have to run now, but you have the option now anyway.

8. Where else can I go now? Just to buy more stuff?

All state parks and trails are also encouraged to reopen now, so you can get back out and explore some nature with the family! But there won’t be any playground use under North Carolina’s Phase 1. Those are still closed.

9. And how about church services?

Church services will still need to take place outside, in unenclosed spaces. This really hasn’t changed from how it already has been.

10. Do I have to wear a face mask if I’m out?

No, you don’t HAVE to wear a face mask. But it’s strongly recommended if you’re going to be within six feet of other people in public, both indoors or outdoors. And as we’re sure you’ve heard by now, this is more to protect other people than it is to protect you. And whether you’re wearing a mask or not, let’s be courteous and kind to others right now. There’s a lot of tension in the air, and we all just want to get back to normal as quickly as possible.

11. OK, last question for now, but how long is this Phase 1 supposed to last?

Currently, there’s no specific date to start Phase 2. The North Carolina order for Phase 1 has been set for two weeks, but Phase 2 isn’t going to begin until we’re showing some good progress on several key metric areas. So Phase 1 could very well be extended longer than two weeks. It’s hard to say right now. But if we’re all doing our part to keep limiting our public exposure, and practicing great hygiene and social distancing guidelines, we’ll get to Phase 2 much quicker.

North Carolina's Phase 1 Plan

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Brandon Plotnick is a former sports journalist, now living in the digital space with interests all over the musical and pop culture map.