Many barber shops, hair and nail salons reopened Friday evening (May 22nd) when North carolina entered Phase Two of Governor Roy Cooper's reopening plan. Most who did were packed with customers who hadn't had a trim in two months.
While Phase Two allowed them to reopen and restaurants to begin dining room service, although limiting them to 50% capacity, there were still some businesses that were not allowed to reopen--and won't be for at least five more weeks according to Cooper's announcement at a briefing last Wednesday.
Byron Sackett, who previously operated Homestead's in Lincolnton, is now in the catering & event business. Cooper's executive order doesn't specifically restrain his business--but it does have the effect of keeping Sackett and others 'out of business' for now by continuing to restrict mass gatherings. Sackett told us two weeks ago he had 32 weddings either postponed or cancelled. "That's not just a big hit for us," he told us, "it's a big hit on the area economy." Sackett said the average wedding brings in over a hundred people from out of town, "and they spend money on lodging, on food, on gas, sometimes on shopping. All that is lost."
Sackett says some restaurants are actually doing better during the COVID-19 pandemic. "Fast food places that did more business at their drive-thru's than inside are doing quite well. Some of them are franchises, so while they may be part of a national chain, they're eligible for the PPP stimulus money, and what it amounts to for some is that their labor costs are being paid over the next several months by a PPP loan they don't have to repay if they used it for payroll." Caterers and others who rely on gatherings are having no such windfall, and while restaurants are now allowed to reopen to inside service--although at far less than normal capacity, even when Phase Three eventually does begin, "it may be much, much longer before events return to anything close to normal."
Sackett posted comments in a video on his Facebook timeline after hearing Cooper's announcement last week CLICK HERE.
Sackett, like many others, had trouble getting a PPP loan during the first round when some banks favored bigger customers over small businesses. His application is now awaiting approval in the second round.
Gyms and dance studios had expected to reopen in Phase Two, based on Governor Cooper’s original preliminary announcement April 23rd. They, too, had spent money on extra cleaning supplies, had employees disinfect equipment, and were anxiously awaiting the announcement that they could reopen--only to be disappointed.
Cooper's announcement that the state would take a more moderate approach to easing restrictions, which also excluded museums, amusement parks, bars and night clubs from opening came as a big blow.
Some gyms decided to go ahead despite the possibility they'd be charged with a class II misdemeanor for violating the Governor's order. The Lifting Lab in Shelby reopened Friday morning. Owner Kevin Nunns said if he gets fined, he'll pay it, and doesn't blame law enforcement if they charge him.
Lincoln County Commissioner Carrol Mitchem reopened inside dining at his restaurant, Mitchem's Kitchen, last Monday, four days ahead of the time he could reopen legally. Sheriff Bill Beam served him a citation with a September court date. In some other counties, other restaurants also opened early; and some sheriffs refused to enforce the law prohibiting it. The Pancake House in Shelby reopened its dining room Thursday morning. Based on the number of cars in their parking lot, they weren't observing any 50% occupancy on Friday morning when the restaurant was packed.
A Charlotte gym also reopened last week in defiance of Cooper's order. Others in other parts of the state did likewise.
A new Facebook group called ReOpen NC’s Health Clubs started last Wednesday and had nearly 5,000 members as of Saturday (May 23rd). The group set up a GoFundMe page and as of Saturday had raised more than $20,000 to pay for legal expenses. Plans are for a lawsuit to be filed against the Governor this week by the same firm that represented churches in obtaining a federal court order to block Cooper from limiting churches' mass gatherings indoors.
Thousands of fans packed the stands Saturday night at Ace Speedway in Elon after Alamance County Sheriff Terry Johnson said he would not interfere with the event. Several other rural race tracks were also planning to reopen, but no reports were available Sunday on whether they did or not. Carolina Speedway in south Gastonia is planning to reopen Monday night. On its Facebook page, the Speedway announced:
Carolina Speedway will be back in action Monday May 25th! First and foremost, special thanks to Gaston County Sheriff Alan Cloninger for always supporting Carolina Speedway and his efforts to make this race happen. Grandstands WILL be open for this event with following social distancing guidelines!
Concessions WILL be open for this event!
Charlotte Motor Speedway finally got the Coca-Cola 600 completed Sunday night.
Brad Keselowski held off Jimmie Johnson in overtime early Monday to win. This event was legal--NASCAR is adapting in its return to racing to restrictions approved by the Governor. This was its third NASCAR race in seven days - all without spectators - and with limited media access, although the race--and a plethora of interviews during rain delays was shown on Fox television.
The Memorial Day weekend ususally includes Formula One at the Monaco Grand Prix, then IndyCar and the Indianapolis 500, followed by NASCAR and its longest race.
This year's Indy 500 was postponed, the first time since 1946 it is not being run on Memorial Day weekend.
NASCAR was able to run the Coca-Cola 600 under a plan approved by state officials that allowed racing to resume. NASCAR ran three events in South Carolina, and the Coca-Cola 600 kicks off four consecutive days of racing at Charlotte.
While Nunns told the Shelby Star newspaper that he would encourage patrons at his gym to wear masks, when we went there to take photos Friday, none were. Likewise, at most events (like the race in Elon), very few have been wearing them. At South Gastonia Church of God, which resumed its indoor worship last Sunday (May 17th) one couple from Lincolnton who attend there had on masks when they arrived--but since nobody else was wearing them, they soon took theirs off.
At most locations, both prior to the change from Phase One to Phase Two and since, most people appear to be treating COVID-19 as nothing special. Less than 50% of the customers in stores are wearing masks, although some stores are requiring their employees to wear them. Ingles made it mandatory, but several of the employees there last week had them on their chins, not covering their nose or mouth. At Food Lion, it was made optional, and most employees decided not to wear them. Almost none of the customers at Lowe's, Walmart & Burton's Farm were wearing masks last week, and most were paying no attention to the social distancing (six feet apart) suggestion.
Most know by now that on Saturday, North Carolina recorded its biggest daily number of new confirmed cases since the outbreak began. Over a thousand new cases were reported. The reason for the spike is not directly related to the reopening--Phase Two only began Friday and any new cases from increased contact it might cause wouldn't show up for at least a couple of weeks. The biggest reason for the increase in known cases is increased testing. The percentage of those tested being positive for the disease remains under 10%, although the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19, which had remained steady at around 400 for early April and around 500 the last few weeks, has now swelled to near 600.
The NC Department of Health and Human Services shows 51.1% of North Carolinians are at high risk for severe illness from the novel coronavirus because they are 65 years old or older, have at least one chronic health condition, or both.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said those who are 65 years old and older and people with underlying health conditions including chronic lung disease, cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes, kidney disease, liver disease and immunosuppressive disorders are especially vulnerable.
In a NCDHHS report, health officials explained that in 2018, the last year for which data is available, 56% of North Carolinians 65 years old and older had at least one chronic health condition.
In North Carolina, the elderly face severe complications from COVID-19, with more than three-quarters of all deaths occurring in patients 65 or older. As of Sunday (May 24th) 744 deaths attributed to COVID-19 had been reported statewide. By the way, the US death toll didn't quite reach the 100,000 figure that had been predicted over the weekend. As of Monday morning, it stood at 99,348.
NCDHHS says 75% of those who have died from severe complications due to COVID-19 in our state had at least one chronic condition. Cardiovascular disease is the most often seen chronic condition among COVID-19 patients--17% of cases and 56% of deaths had a history of the condition. While kidney disease was seen in just 4% of COVID-19 patients, 21% of those who have died from COVID-19 had kidney disease.
NCDHHS and all area county health departments continue to urge compliance with the 3W's:
- WEAR a cloth face covering when in public.
- WAIT in lines for service at least 6 feet apart to avoid close contact.
- WASH your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, or rub hands with hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol until they feel dry.