North Carolina will ease several mass gathering restrictions, Gov. Roy Cooper announced Tuesday, thanks to North Carolina’s improving COVID-19 metrics and accelerating vaccine rollout. The …
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North Carolina will ease several mass gathering restrictions, Gov. Roy Cooper announced Tuesday, thanks to North Carolina’s improving COVID-19 metrics and accelerating vaccine rollout. The executive order will go into effect Friday, March 26 at 5 p.m.
“North Carolina has done the work to slow the spread of this virus and get people vaccinated, and I’m grateful for the efforts of people across the state,” Cooper said. “This pandemic is not over yet. We're only able to keep the virus in check while we ease restrictions if people act responsibly and follow safety protocols.”
Under the order, indoor gathering limits may increase to 50 people from 25; outdoors, 100 people may now gather together, up from 50. Cooper also lifted restrictions limiting the 11 p.m. curfew for on-sight sale and service of alcohol on bars, restaurants and others.
Museums, retail businesses and personal care businesses among others may open at full capacity indoors and outdoors, under the order. Other businesses, including restaurants, breweries and gyms, may now open indoors up to 75% and at full capacity outdoors.
Likewise, a third category of venues — which includes bars, movie theaters and conference spaces — can now open up to half capacity indoors and out. The order also specifies that outdoor movie theaters and gaming facilities may operate at up to 75% capacity.
The state’s mask mandate remains in effect. Businesses must still uphold the state’s six-feet physical distancing requirement and carry out other safety protocols when opening up to more people. This order is set to expire April 30 at 5 p.m., if not extended. As in the past, this order exempts religious gatherings, funerals, weddings and “other activities constituting the exercise of First Amendment rights.”
“These are significant changes, but they can be done safely,” Cooper said. “We’ve said all along that the science and data would be our guide in this dimmer switch approach, and they show we can do this.”
Cooper also pointed to the increase of in-person learning across the state as another cause for optimism in continuing to ease COVID-19 restrictions. Earlier this month, he signed a school reopening bill that requires all districts to offer daily in-person learning to K-5 students and hybrid or daily in-person learning to middle and high schoolers.
As restrictions ease, Cooper urged North Carolinians to continue doing their part to curb the spread of the virus by wearing a mask and social distancing.
“For us to truly turn the corner and leave this pandemic behind, we have to stay strong to the very end,” he said. “We have to continue keeping ourselves and each other safe. That way we’ll be able to move forward once and for all into a stronger and healthier future.”