Since peaking in mid-July, the state has seen promising trends in key metrics: emergency department visits for COVID-19-like illnesses (an early indicator) continue to decline, daily counts of newly identified cases are significant but stable, the percentage of tests returning with positive results is stable around 8% but higher than the objective of 5% or less, and COVID- 19 hospitalizations (a lagging indicator) continue to decline. Basically, the amount of community-level spread of COVID-19 persists at a rate that is too high for comfort, but the overall stability of the numbers, despite students’ return to schools and campuses throughout August, is reassuring. Acting on the overall encouraging trending of key metrics, but remaining mindful that the stabilization is fragile, on the afternoon of Tuesday, September 1, Governor Roy Cooper announced Executive Order 163, advancing North Carolina forward in the guarded and deliberate easing of COVID-19 mitigation restrictions. This Executive Order ushers in what is called Phase 2.5.
Of utmost pertinence to Deerfield residents, the order begins with a statement that all people 65 years of age or older (and people of any age who have serious underlying medical conditions) are still “very strongly encouraged to stay home and travel only for absolutely essential purposes.” This statement, verbatim, has been included in all previous Executive Orders related to COVID-19 mitigation and is intended to supersede succeeding aspects of the order. And the word “travel” is not referring to leisure travel and tourism alone, but rather to any movement outside of one’s home. Essentially, the contents of the Executive Order are specific to the general population, with a greater degree of restriction suggested for those at higher risk. Keep this important caveat in mind when reading the following list.
In the State of North Carolina, Safer at Home, Phase 2.5 does the following:
• Allows for people to gather together for social purposes, so long as they do not exceed the mass gathering limit, now extended to 25 people indoors and 50 people outdoors (increased from 10 and 25, respectively).
• Opens playgrounds.
• Allows for museums and aquariums to open at a maximum of 50% capacity.
• Allows for gyms and indoor exercise facilities to open at a maximum of 30% capacity.
• Keeps certain businesses closed, including bars, nightclubs, movie theaters, indoor entertainment facilities, amusement parks, and dance halls.
No Deerfield policies have changed as a result of this newest Executive Order. The interdisciplinary team leading Deerfield’s COVID-19 response is obligated to act with caution in our continued effort to put forth policies and protocols that are appropriate and prudent given our special situation as a CCRC with high-risk resident and staff populations. In the coming weeks, we look forward to working with our partners at the state and county level to determine how best to apply Phase 2.5’s allowances in our unique setting.