At 5 PM Friday (May 22nd) North Carolina will enter Phase Two of Governor Roy Cooper's reopening plan. Some businesses that had been closed will be able to reopen; others will have fewer restrictions on their operation; there will still be some businesses that will have to remain closed according to Cooper's Executive Order.
The change from Phase One to Phase Two will change "Stay at Home" to "Safer at Home." Cooper and NCDHHS Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen are fearful that as businesses reopen, many will ignore the 3W's that have been recommended: wear a covering over your nose and mouth, wait at least six feet from other customers as you shop, and wash your hands often. They fear, as does Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top epidemiologist, that a second wave of COVID-19 infections may occur--and that it may be worse than the first.
All 50 states have now relaxed some of their restrictions on businesses as President Donald Trump pushes for a reopening of the economy.
Under North Carolina's Phase Two, restaurants will be able to start serving meals inside again, but they will be limited to 50% capacity and will be required to maintain separation of tables sufficient to provide 'social distancing' of customers. Barber shops and hair & nail salons will be able to reopen. Barbers and beauticians will be required to wear a facial covering among other mandates.
Gyms and movie theaters won't be allowed to reopen until Phase Three--and that won't happen, according to Cooper's statement Wednesday, for at least another five weeks.
Kevin Nunns isn't waiting. Nunns decided to proceed with opening his The Lifting Lab at 615 North Post Road in Shelby.
Thursday morning, he posted on Facebook:
The time has finally come! The Lifting Lab will be opening for normal operation tomorrow morning, May 22, at 9 am.
We have reviewed several guidelines put forth by the state as well as collaborated with other local businesses and county officials through “You Can Count On Us Cleveland County” and have implemented some guidelines for your and our safety. We will be limiting occupancy to our space at 30 people, face covering is highly recommended. We ask that you practice social distancing and we ask that you limit your time in the gym to allow others to lift as well. It’s important to remember that if you are sick or have been with someone who is sick, please stay home & get better!
We have added 3 extra hand sanitizing stations as well as put out disinfectant solution for patrons to use after each piece of equipment is used. This is all in addition to our daily routine sanitizing efforts. We are so excited to see each and every one of you tomorrow!! Who’s ready to lift?
His parking lot was full Friday morning. None of those who came to work out were wearing masks. Nunns was requiring all members to sign a waiver saying they understood the potential danger from the coronavirus and would not hold the gym responsible if they get infected.
Nunns said the early reopening--in defiance of Cooper's order--is a statement. The gym isn’t his only source of income, but since he hasn't been charging members since the order to close, it has produced no income while the expenses have continued. He said he understands he may be charged with a class II misdemeanor and may have to pay a fine, but he's willing to take that risk.
Nunns told us he signed up for Cleveland County’s “You Can Count on Us,” program and received a packet of information on safety guidelines and a logo to display in his gym declaring him a responsibly open facility. He said he will be following recommendations, limiting occupancy to 30 people at a time, and offering hand sanitizer for those using his facilities.
The Lifting Lab normally operates 24/7, but will have reduced hours for now. "We'll be here until everybody leaves, then do a thorough cleaning tonight," he told us, "then we'll reopen tomorrow morning."
Another Shelby business followed the lead of Lincoln County Commission Chairman Carrol Mitchem, who reopened his Mitchem's Kitchen to dine-in business on Monday of this week. The Pancake House on West Dixon Blvd. didn't wait for 5 PM Friday to reopen their dining room. They opened it on Thursday.
Friday morning, their parking lot was full for breakfast.
Other than Mitchem's Kitchen, no Lincoln County restaurants decided to defy the Governor and reopen early. Many of them won't reopen to inside dining Friday when it becomes permissible. Court Street Grille won't reopen its dining room this weekend, and when we talked with them earlier this week, they weren't sure when they would.
Graffiti's will continue carryout only until Wednesday (May 27th) when they'll reopen their dining room for dinner. They won't reopen the dining room for lunch until later.
Fatz Cafe will reopen its dining room for lunch & dinner beginning Thursday (May 28th). The Woodshed in Stanley will reopen for in-house dining on Tuesday evening (May 26th).
Rex Rhyne says he'll begin giving haircuts at his barber shop on S. Academy Street at 5 PM Friday. "My phone has been ringing constantly," he told us.
Cooper, Cohen and other members of the Coronavirus Task Force held another briefing on COVID-19 Friday afternoon, but made no new announcements.