Gov. Roy Cooper said he plans to issue an executive order Thursday setting new social-distancing requirements for groceries and other retailers across the state.

Speaking at a Wednesday afternoon news conference, the governor said that some store owners already are capping how many shoppers can be in their buildings at the same time and ensuring that by controlling access at the front door.

Cooper said he would probably issue such an order Thursday to "make it more uniform across the state."

At the event in Raleigh, Cooper spoke approvingly of retailers who already limit access to their stores so that the number of shoppers inside are ensured plenty of space to inhibit person-to-person spread of the highly contagious coronavirus.

Cooper did not suggest a complete ban on in-store shopping, saying, "I know people have to go out to get groceries and other essential items."

But he described how some retailers with caps on the number of customers inside ask additional shoppers to line up outside, then let a new customer in for each previous shopper who leaves.

Some mark off the pavement outside to show the spots where those waiting in line should stand so that they keep the recommended 6 feet of separation between themselves and others in line as they advance toward the entrance, Cooper said.

"So people will be socially distanced inside the store but also as they wait in line," he said.

Such policies are "aimed at protecting both the customers and the employees" from exposure to COVID-19, he said.

"We commend that," Cooper said. "We think it needs to be across the board in our retail establishments across the state."

Contact Taft Wireback at 336-373-7100 and follow @TaftWirebackNR on Twitter.

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