After two weeks of being in Phase 1, Governor Roy Cooper said the state has been hitting enough indicators and benchmarks for testing and tracing of COVID-19 to move into Phase 2.

Orange County Commissioner Penny Rich Spoke with 97.9 The Hill’s Aaron Keck about what this new phase looks like and what it might mean for the county.

Phase 2 will officially go into effect across North Carolina at 5 p.m. Friday and is slated to potentially last five weeks.

Rich said Orange County plans to update their own executive order as the state adapts to its new normal in Phase 2. A new Emergency Declaration was issued by county Thursday evening.

“Currently our order is for Executive Order 138 which was for Phase 1 so now we need to update our order as well,” Rich said.

Although Orange County’s new Emergency Declarations doesn’t contain any significant changes to their order, Governor Cooper said if local governments do pass stricter legislation in efforts to protect public health, residents should defer to those rules.

Orange County initially issued a stay at home order prior to the state government and had slightly stricter guidelines, meaning county residents were to defer the county’s instead of the state’s.

With Phase 2 of the state lifting restrictions now in place, Rich want to urge the community to still remain cautious.

The responsibility to reopen our community in a smart manner is on all of us as individuals,” Rich said. “This disease is still affecting people in Orange County, and we know the virus does not care about county lines. Even as we open, people should be wearing face coverings, staying 6 feet apart from others, and continuing to wash their hands frequently – these are keys to our success moving forward.”

Under Phase 2, businesses like restaurants, salons and barbers can accept customers indoors again, with capacity, cleaning and face covering requirements – but opening up at 50% capacity might not be feasible for many local businesses.

“You know opening up at 50 percent for restaurants – we’ve heard from some of our restaurant owners who told us that they just can’t make that work and they’re going to stick with curbside [pickup],” Rich said. “Some of the salons and barbershops are able to facilitate that six feet apart, some of them aren’t. So they would have to work at a much lower capacity as well.”

Rich said, while difficult, this is an opportunity for our businesses to understand how they can operate with less people moving forward.

Under Orange County’s new Emergency Declaration, tables at restaurants are limited to no more than six people (the state order allows up to 10). However, more than six people may sit together at the same table if they are members of the same household. Additionally, all businesses should require customers to wear a face covering while inside the business.

At his press conference on Wednesday, Cooper said the transition to Phase 2 will help the state’s economy rebound after many businesses were shuttered with the initial stay-at-home order.

Some businesses initially planned to re-open during Phase 2 will be required to stay closed in efforts to remain cautious. Bars, gyms, nightclubs, indoor entertainment venues and public playgrounds will remain closed for now.

“People in Orange County have been just surprisingly cooperative and I appreciate it so much – we all appreciate it so much,” Rich said. “We’ve been doing a good job of protecting people and we just want to make sure that we continue to do that.”

For the latest information and guidance relating to Orange County’s COVID-19 response click here.

You can hear more of this conversation with Orange County Commissioner Penny Rich here. does not charge subscription fees. You can support local journalism and our mission to serve the community. Contribute today – every single dollar matters.