WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Businesses and parks across the state are part of the first wave of places allowed to reopen when North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper’s modified statewide stay-at-home order takes effect Friday afternoon.
Retail establishments are allowed to open at 5 p.m. but they must limit customer occupancy. Restaurants are still barred from offering dine-in options for at least another two weeks. However, barber shops, gyms and movie theaters will remain closed.
Cooper and state health officials are urging people to maintain social distancing and wash their hands frequently.
Since state and local restrictions were implemented weeks ago in an effort to stem the spread of the Coronavirus, Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo says he thinks the city’s residents as well as those living at Wrightsville Beach, Carolina Beach and Kure Beach have all done very well abiding by the recommendations.
“To have a county of 235,000 people, I think the third most populous state per square mile, I think we have done phenomenal,” Saffo said.
As of late Thursday, New Hanover County reported its COVID-19 case count had risen to 101 with 60 recovered cases and three deaths.
“Citizens have taken it seriously and done things we’ve asked them to do–social distancing, washing their hands and wearing masks,” Saffo said.
Meanwhile, a growing number of people across the country, including a local group called Reopen North Carolina, feel the state has been slow in getting the economy going again.
“We all want to re-open the economy as quickly as possible, I mean if you take a $22 trillion economy in the United States of America and literally shut it down, its unprecedented,” Saffo said.
While many seem to be in agreement about the need to reopen, Saffo says he and other local leaders want to ensure its done safely.
“We want to do it taking into consideration the concerns of public health and what that means to each and everyone of us,” Saffo said.”I think it’s important for us to continue to heed the advice of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, N.C. Health and Human Services [and] what our governor is telling us.”
While restrictions may be loosening, Saffo says its important to remember this virus is not simply going away.
“We have been in a mitigation phase the last 30 to 40 days now,” he said. “As we start lifting these restrictions, obviously how we go about our day-to-day life is going to change, social distancing is going to be with us for a while and we are going to make recommendations for people to continue wearing masks.”
While customers are thrilled to return to their favorite shops, Saffo predicts how we conduct business is going to change until a vaccine is available.
“I think those businesses that take the added step to protect their consumers [and] customers are going to do very well,” he said.
Business owners, however, who don’t make their customers’ safety a top priority, could wind up paying a hefty price.
“You’re going to see a lot of people say, ‘If I don’t feel safe going into that store, if I don’t feel safe in getting my haircut there because the people are not taking adequate precautions,’ you’ll see that reflected in their business,” Saffo said.