The statewide stay-at-home restrictions will be eased on Friday, May 8 at 5 p.m. according to an executive order signed by North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper on Tuesday, May 5.

The stay-at-home order, which was originally set to expire on April 29, was extended by Cooper until May 8, and he announced Tuesday that those restrictions would be eased in Phase 1.

Cooper said that the decision was firmly grounded in the data and added, “I signed an executive order to move North Carolina into Phase 1 of easing those restrictions.”

Cooper made it clear at a press conference on Tuesday that the stay-at-home order remains in place and he asked North Carolinians to continue to stay at home as much as possible, but that the restrictions of that order were being eased to allow more businesses to open and for more economic activity.

One of the key restrictions that will be lifted is the differentiation between essential and nonessential businesses. Cooper said that any business that could meet the requirements of social distancing would be allowed to open and people were free to travel to those businesses.

Parks will also be opened in Phase 1.

Businesses that were specifically closed by the stay-at-home order, such as hair salons, barbershops, gyms, restaurants (except for takeout and delivery), bars and entertainment venues where social distancing was nearly impossible will remain closed in Phase 1.

Retail establishments, which are currently limited to 20 percent of their capacity, will be allowed to increase that to 50 percent as long as the social distancing and enhanced cleaning conditions can still be met.

Gatherings will still be limited to a maximum of 10 people, but Cooper said that protests and worship services that were held outdoors would not be limited as long as the social distancing requirements were met.

Cooper said that the plan was for Phase 1 to be in effect for at least two weeks until May 22, and at that time, if the data indicated that it was safe, the state will move to Phase 2 where the stay-at-home order will be lifted, but some restrictions would remain in effect.

Cooper said, “The data shows us that now is the time to begin easing the restrictions.”