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Why Durham delayed reopening until June 1

After North Carolina entered the second phase of reopening May 22, Durham held back from lifting restrictions for a week and a half, after a recent spike in COVID-19 cases. 

At the time, the county had three times as many cases per capita as neighboring Wake County, Durham Mayor Steve Schewel told WRAL May 22, with much of the spike disproportionately in the Latinx community. The spike in cases caused local officials not to allow businesses like hair salons to open until June 1. 

"For the first time, really, Durham has seen in the last week a higher rate of cases than the state of North Carolina as a whole. For a couple weeks, we were having about 12 cases a day. We have now more than doubled that in the last week," Schewel told WRAL. 

North Carolina cases increased by 1,107 May 23—a record in the number of cases per day—as much of the state entered its first full day of loosened restrictions, according to The News and Observer. There were 26,385 new tests reported in the state as well.

Durham's hair salons remained closed this past week, while restaurants still only allowed takeout. Pools in the city will not be open this summer.

Although Phase 2 of the statewide reopening is slightly more restrictive than originally planned, it was a significant step forward from Phase 1. On May 22 at 5 p.m., most of the state began allowing restaurants to open dining rooms at 50% capacity with social distancing and cleaning requirements. Salons, pools, retail businesses and childcare facilities are subject to the same rules.  Bars and playgrounds, however, remain closed.

Indoor gatherings are limited to ten people, whereas outdoor gatherings can have up to 25 people.

In a May 7 video message, Schewel urged Durham residents to continue prioritizing public health, according to the N&O.

“I’m worried that Durham will begin to see the broad community spread that many cities have experienced,” he said. “Even as our recovery and renewal begins, we must continue to stay home whenever possible, to socially distance and wash our hands and wear our face coverings ... This is still in our hands. Together we can continue to slow the spread of the virus.”

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