New order on the way: Expect tighter shopping restrictions

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North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper expects to sign an executive order requiring retail businesses to have tighter control of social distancing measures for both customers and employees, according to an electronic press briefing Tuesday.

“We hear the same complaints that people who are going into stores are worrying about the fact that some stores are not requiring customers to keep their social distance,” Cooper said. “Some stores have way too many people inside of them.”

Cooper praised stores which have taken the measures to heart and done things such as limiting the number of customers in the building at one time and providing dividers and other means of keeping the 6 foot apart standard easier to follow.

Many of those voluntary measures currently being done by some retailers, could become mandatory of all stores until the situation with the coronavirus is resolved, he indicated. Some of the measures he hinted at including in the order were limiting the number of people in buildings based on a percentage of the maximum occupancy, the installation of one-way aisles, making sure there are marks to indicate the proper distance between people, the installation of plexiglas at the checkout and marking spaces outside the store for customers awaiting entry, indicating the 6-feet distance.

“I think this is a positive step and we need to make that kind of thing more uniform and that’s what you can expect in an executive order,” Cooper said. “Maybe not exactly those details. We are getting some input now from across the state as to how we exactly want to form these restrictions.”

The order, which Cooper is expected to sign later this week, is intended to not only maintain social distancing, its also intended to help discourage casual shoppers in those stores.

“We don’t want people to be afraid to go to the grocery store or pharmacy to get essential items,” Cooper said. “But we also want to discourage people who are going there just to have something to do and if you might have to stand in line a little while to be able to get into the store it would discourage people from going just because they want to have something to do.”

Cooper said another point he’s trying to make with the impending executive order is to send a message to residents on the importance of continuing the stay-at-home order and social distancing measures.

The governor said he wanted to reinforce the need for both and to make sure the message is very clear.

“We think this is an important signal to send as well, wherever we are, we have to keep our physical distance,” he said. “And the best thing you can do now is stay home.”

He said the order could contain other measures, which he did not elaborate on during a press conference Tuesday afternoon.

“We’ll be looking at other potential interventions that we might take,” he said. “But (this is) one area that we thought was most important, that we were hearing the most from citizens, that they were concerned about going to these stores and that we needed to do more to protect them. I’m grateful to the retailers who have stepped up to do this, but I think it’s important that all of them do it.”

Rick Curl can be reached at rcurl@mydailyrecord.com or at 910-230-2037.

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