RALEIGH, N.C. (WECT) - Gov. Cooper announced Wednesday that he is easing some of the state’s COVID-19 restrictions.
One of the biggest changes in Cooper’s new executive order will allow bars to open indoors for the first time since the pandemic began. Bars can have customers indoors up to 30 percent of their capacity. Alcohol sales still must end at 11 p.m. for all venues.
“Given the significant and sustained improvement in our COVID-19 metrics, today I am announcing that we will ease but not lift restrictions in several areas with a new Executive Order that will go into effect this Friday, February 26,” Cooper said Wednesday. ”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.
“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 COVID19 is infecting people every day.
“Many businesses and venues will be able to stay at or expand to 50% occupancy while still maintaining health and safety protocols.”
Among the changes:
- 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.
- Sports fields and venues, stadiums, outdoor bars, outdoor amusement parks and other outdoor businesses, which were limited to operating outdoors at 30% capacity, will still have that percentage but will no longer have a 100-person cap.
- Bars and taverns, indoor amusement parks, movie theaters and indoor sports arenas can open at 30% capacity with a cap of 250 people.
- An exception for larger indoor arenas with a capacity of more than 5000 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.
- 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,” Cooper said. “The order and our own common sense say that health and safety protocols must remain in place.”