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North Carolina COVID Restrictions To Loosen Further as Metrics Fall

North Carolina COVID restrictions
Roy Cooper announced changes to North Carolina COVID-19 restrictions on Tuesday, though this photo is from a past press conference.

On Tuesday, Gov. Cooper announced updated North Carolina COVID-19 restrictions to take effect on Friday, March 26. The new rules expand capacity allowed at most businesses across the state and end the 11 p.m. cutoff for on-site alcohol sales. The new order goes into effect at 5 p.m. on Friday and remains in place until April 30. The statewide mask mandate will remain in effect. 

Executive Order No. 204 has three general categories of occupancy restrictions, though all businesses must continue to maintain the 6 feet of distance requirement between patrons and implement other safety protocols as they expand their capacity, Cooper emphasized on Tuesday. 

The order will also increase mass-gathering limits. The number of people who may gather indoors will increase from 25 to 50 and the number of people who may gather outdoors will increase from 50 to 100.

The following businesses will be allowed to open at 100% capacity indoors: museums and aquariums, retail businesses, salons, personal care and grooming businesses, and tattoo parlors. 

These business can open at 75% indoors and 100% outdoors: restaurants, breweries, wineries and distilleries; recreation venues such as bowling alleys, skating rinks and rock climbing facilities; fitness facilities such as gyms, yoga studios, and fitness centers; pools; and amusement parks. 

The following businesses can open at 50% capacity whether indoors or outdoors: bars; meeting, reception and conference spaces; lounges such as hookah lounges and night clubs; auditoriums, arenas, and other live-performance venues; sports arenas and fields, including professional, collegiate, and amateur sports. Movie theaters and gaming facilities can operate at 50% indoors and 75% outdoors. 

“We are in a promising place. With North Carolina’s COVID-19 key metrics improving and vaccinations increasing, we can responsibly use our dimmer switch approach to easing restrictions guided by science and data,” said North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) Secretary Mandy K. Cohen, M.D. 

According to the latest numbers released by Mecklenburg County Public Health, which released its latest report on Friday, March 19, the county had seen a 5.1 test-positivity rate over the previous week, a slight increase from weeks before. That could be credited to less people getting tested if they did not think they were exposed. 

(Graph courtesy of Mecklenburg County Public Health)

According to Friday’s MCPH data, an average of 121 people were hospitalized on any given day over the previous week due to COVID-19, a decreasing trend over the previous 14 days.

According to NCDHHS data, the state has administered over 4.1 million vaccine doses as of Tuesday. Over 31.7% of people 18 and up have received at least one dose, and 18.8% are fully vaccinated. In Mecklenburg County, 16.5% of people are at least partially vaccinated (183,508), while just 10.3% people are fully vaccinated (114,338). 

North Carolina COVID restrictions
Juan Braswell prepares to get a dose at an Atrium Health mass vaccination event at Charlotte Douglas International Airport on March 17. (Photo by Emily Barnes/Atrium Health)

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