Public cautioned to be safe as some restrictions are lifted
While cautioning residents to “stay vigilant,” Gov. Roy Cooper on Tuesday eased restrictions which will allow local playgrounds, gyms and museums to reopen with guidelines.
The Historical & Arts Council’s Old Jail Museum is wasting no time. After a three-month delay, they will be opening the museum’s doors this Saturday.
"We're excited," said CCHAC co-president Reba Beck. “We’ve got so much to share, new exhibits and fix-ups here and there. That’s why we’re excited — we’re anxious to show it off.”
The museum usually kicks off its opening Memorial Day weekend, but has been closed since May because of the COVID-19 outbreak.
Beck said the museum will be observing CDC safety guidelines and per the governor’s order, allowing 50 percent capacity indoors.
The museum will be open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. this Saturday. It is closed Sundays and Mondays, but will resume its regular schedule of 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday through October.
Many residents will also be happy to hear they can return to their exercise routines and take their children back to local playgrounds.
The Clay County Recreation Center gym will reopen on Tuesday, Sept. 8. Temporary hours are 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays and 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays.
Park Director Jerry Payne confirmed that playgrounds at the Recreation Center complex and the Clay County Rec Park at Lake Chatuge will open at 5:01 p.m. Friday.
The governor encouraged visitors to playgrounds to wear face coverings, use hand sanitizer and maintain social distancing from people out- side of their household.
The Recreation Center gym and other indoor exercise facilities, such as yoga studios, martial arts and rock climbing, as well as skating rinks, bowling alleys, indoor basketball, volleyball etc., may open at 30 percent capacity.
These openings are the beneficiaries of a modest easing of restrictions which comes as the state begins to see stability in its key metrics. The trajectory of lab-confirmed cases is stable and the trajectory of hospitalizations is declining, according to Cooper’s report.
While the numbers are stable or declining, they remain high.
North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy K. Cohen cautioned, “Our progress is fragile and we need to maintain focus on the 3Ws, especially as we head into flu season.”
During the Phase 2.5 re-opening process, beginning 5 p.m. Friday, Sept. 4, the following changes will occur:
• Mass gathering limits increase to 25 people indoors and 50 people outdoors. Currently the limit is 10 indoors and 25 outdoors.
A Secretarial Order allowing for outdoor visitation at nursing homes or skilled nursing facilities was also issued.
To participate, nursing homes must meet several requirements, including not having a current outbreak, having a testing plan and updated written Infection Control or Preparedness plan for COVID-19 and having adequate personal protective equipment.
Clay County Care Center has undergone two facility-wide testings and an additional staff testing during the pandemic. In all cases, those results came back negative.
Businesses that remain closed in this phase include bars, nightclubs, movie theaters, indoor entertainment facilities, amusement parks and dance halls.
In addition, the 11 p.m. curfew on alcohol sales at restaurants has been extended to Oct. 2.
Large venues remain subject to mass gathering limits. “Safer at Home Phase 2.5 continues our state’s dimmer switch approach to easing some restrictions,” said Cooper.
“We can do this safely only if we keep doing what we know works — wearing masks and social distancing. In fact, a new phase is exactly when we need to take this virus even more seriously,” he added.
Mask mandates and other prevention methods remain in effect and Cooper said are even more important to contain the virus. Age requirement for mask wearing includes children “down to age 5.”
People who are at high risk of severe illness from COVID-19 are strongly encouraged to stay home and travel only for absolutely essential purposes.
The CDC defines high-risk individuals as people 65 years or older and people of any age who have serious underlying medical conditions.
In Clay County, two COVID-related deaths were reported. Both were hospitalized, one was in their mid 60s and the other in the late 80s.