Governor announces closure of restaurants, bars in North Carolina due to coronavirus

(Takaaki Iwabu/Raleigh News & Observer/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper is ordering all restaurants and bars to be closed to dine-in patrons as movement restrictions keep getting ratcheted up to dampen the spread of the new coronavirus.

Cooper’s office announced he would issue a new executive order directing the closings effective at 5 p.m. Tuesday. The establishments can continue to offer takeout and delivery, according to a news release.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW: 

  • North Carolina has 44 people who have tested positive for the new coronavirus. Eleven of those cases are in Mecklenburg County.
  • More than 3,500 in the U.S. are infected, and at least 68 people have died across the country.
  • All North Carolina public schools will be closed for the next two weeks, at least.
  • Gov. Roy Cooper mandated all bars and restaurants in North Carolina close to encourage social distancing. Takeout, delivery and drive-thru options may still be available, depending on the restaurant.
  • The CDC recommends people avoid crowds of 50 or more for the next eight weeks and President Donald Trump is asking people not gather in groups of more than 10.
  • Numerous events have been canceled across the region, including business conferences, festivals, concerts and more.
  • A toll-free Hope Line has been established for older adults experiencing isolation from social distancing. Call 1-866-578-4673 or 1-866-578-HOPE.

Until now, bars and restaurants were exempted from Cooper’s prohibition of assemblies of more than 100 people, but state health officials had discouraged crowds at them and urged safe distancing.

Cooper’s impending order also will expand unemployment benefits to help employees harmed financially by closings in commerce, his office said.

"I recognize this decision will cost people their jobs, so this order also brings them some relief. Today I am taking down barriers to unemployment benefits in response to this unprecedented health crisis," Gov. Cooper said. 

  • It removes the one-week waiting period to apply for unemployment benefits for those workers who lose their jobs
  • It removes the requirement that a person must look for another job during this time when so many potential employers are closed and social distancing guidelines are in effect 
  • It allows employees who lose their jobs or, in certain cases have their hours reduced due to COVID-19 issues, to apply for unemployment benefits
  • It waives the requirement that part of the application process be in person
  • It directs that these unemployment losses won't be counted against employers 

WHAT TO DO IF YOU'RE LAID OFF DUE TO CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC

Cooper and others leading North Carolina’s response scheduled a Tuesday afternoon news conference to discuss details.

By Tuesday morning, North Carolina state government had counted 44 residents who tested positive for COVID-19, with 15 of those living in Wake County and 11 in Mecklenburg. No deaths have been reported in the state. Over the weekend, Cooper issued an order prohibiting the mass gatherings and closing the K-12 public schools for at least two weeks.

WATCH TUESDAY'S NEWS CONFERENCE HERE:

North Carolina residents are pitching in within the state and other parts of the world.

Volunteers are playing a role to ensure students in low-income families receive meals during the school hiatus. And Boone-based Samaritan’s Purse, led by the Rev. Franklin Graham, announced it’s using a cargo plane to send a 68-bed emergency field hospital, with 20 tons of medical equipment, to Italy to help battle the coronavirus.

“We are going to Italy to provide life-saving care in Jesus’ name to people who are suffering,” Graham said in a news release.

The virus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough, for most people, but severe illness is more likely in the elderly and people with existing health problems. Worldwide, COVID-19 has killed over 7,300 people so far but more than 80,000 have recovered.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.