During a press conference on Wednesday afternoon, Gov. Roy Cooper announced the end of the modified stay-at-home order that was announced on Dec. 8, lifting a curfew that required most businesses to close at 10 p.m. and limited travel after that time. Cooper announced other changes to NC COVID-19 restrictions as well, including the extension of the cutoff for onsite alcohol sales at bars restaurants from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m., to take effect on Friday, Feb. 26.
Cooper also announced a change to guidelines regarding how many people are allowed in a given business at one time, allowing gyms, museums, aquariums, barbers, retail establishments, restaurants, breweries and wineries to open at 50% capacity with health and safety protocols.
Indoor businesses that had been shut down, including bars, taverns, indoor amusement parks, movie theaters, indoor sports arenas and others, will be allowed to open at 30% capacity with a cap of 250 people. Outdoor businesses such as sports fields and amphitheaters, stadiums, outdoor bars and outdoor amusement parks will continue to be allowed to operate at 30% capacity, but without the 100-person cap that is currently in place.
According to Cooper, an exception for larger indoor arenas with a capacity of more than 5,000 people will allow up to 15% capacity at those venues, as long as certain safety protocols are followed. Most college and professional indoor sports such as basketball and hockey can have fans at 15% capacity with those protocols in place. Spectrum Center, for example, will be able to host around 3,000 fans for a Charlotte Hornets game.
In circumstances not covered by those mentioned above, the mass-gathering limit will be expanded to 25 people indoors and 50 people outdoors.
At Wednesday’s press conference, Cooper emphasized that the mask mandate is still in effect in North Carolina, and people should continue to practice social-distancing and hand-washing to help stabilize COVID-19 metrics.
“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,” Cooper said, adding that carelessness could lead to a backslide, especially with new variants of the coronavirus present in the state already.
Cooper stated that more than half of North Carolina residents aged 65 and older have received the COVID-19 vaccine, and pointed out that Wednesday marked the first day educators were eligible to get vaccinated. On March 10, other frontline essential workers such as grocery store employees and first responders will become eligible for the vaccination.
“I know that many people, including me, are eagerly awaiting their turn and the state will continue to work to get more vaccine here from the federal government,” Cooper said.
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