CHARLOTTE, N.C. (FOX 46 CHARLOTTE) – On Wednesday, Gov. Roy Cooper announced a major first step in North Carolina’s COVID-19 exit strategy with plans to lift the current curfew and loosen restrictions for multiple businesses as COVID-19 trends improve across the state.
“The only restriction we will lift is the Modified Stay-at-Home order. That means no more curfew starting Friday, and more opportunities to gather, shop, and attend events if done safely,” Gov. Cooper said.
Given the significant and sustained improvement in COVID-19 metrics, Gov. Cooper announced that North Carolina will ease but not lift restrictions in several areas with a new Executive Order that will go into effect this Friday, February 26.
“When it comes to easing some restrictions, we’re depending on people to be responsible. The mandatory mask mandate won’t change. As more people gather together it’ll be important to social distance. These proven safety protocols are vital as COVID-19 is infecting people every day,” Gov. Cooper said.
Many North Carolina businesses and venues will be able to stay at or expand to 50% occupancy while still maintaining health and safety protocols, Gov. Cooper explained.
Gyms, museums, aquariums, barbers, pools, outdoor amusement parks, retail establishments, restaurants, breweries, and wineries may now open at 50% capacity with health and safety protocols.
The time for ending on-site service of alcohol will be moved to 11 p.m., Gov. Cooper said.
Some businesses that were limited to operating outdoors at 30% capacity will still have that percentage but will no longer have a 100-person cap. That includes sports fields and venues, stadiums, outdoor bars, outdoor amusement parks, and other outdoor businesses.
The new Order will also allow some indoor businesses to open at 30% capacity with a cap of 250 people. These businesses include bars and taverns, indoor amusement parks, movie theaters, indoor sports arenas, and others.
An exception for larger indoor arenas with a capacity of more than 5,000 people will allow up to 15% capacity if more safety protocols are followed. Most college and professional indoor sports like basketball and hockey can have fans at 15% capacity with certain protocols.
It’s also important to note that bars and taverns will be allowed to open indoors for the first time since near the beginning of the pandemic, Gov. Cooper said. Capacity indoors is 30% and officials will enforce this limit. Like restaurants and other venues, alcohol sales must stop at 11 p.m.
Finally, the mass gathering limit will be increased to 25 indoors and 50 outdoors.
“Easing these restrictions will only work if we keep protecting ourselves and others from this deadly virus. The order and our own common sense say that health and safety protocols must remain in place,” Gov. Cooper said. “We know that new, more contagious strains of the virus are here in North Carolina. And carelessness could lead to a backslide.”