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NC Gov. Cooper eases restrictions; many businesses to fully reopen

During a Tuesday press conference, Gov. Roy Cooper announced a new executive order that will ease more COVID-related restrictions in North Carolina. Executive Order 204 will go into effect on Friday, March 26 at 5 p.m.

“North Carolina has done the work to slow the spread and get people vaccinated,” Cooper said. “I’m grateful for the efforts of people across the state. But the pandemic is not over. We’re only able to keep the virus in check while we ease restrictions if people act responsibly and follow safety protocols. That means continuing to wear a mask and social distancing. We want to strengthen our economy while keeping people safe, and it is on all of us to make that happen. The last thing we want is to backslide.”

As data in North Carolina continues to improve and with around 1/3 of adults in the state receiving at least the first COVID19 vaccine dose, Gov. Cooper increased capacity limits for businesses across the state and completely eliminated the state’s curfew for alcohol sales. While the mask mandate remains in effect and social distancing guidelines continue to be recommended, many businesses will soon be fully open.

Places like museums, aquariums, retail businesses and shops, salons, and personal care shops will be able to increase capacity up to 100% indoors and outdoors with safety protocols in place.

Businesses including restaurants, breweries, wineries, amusement parks, gyms and pools, and other recreation establishments will be allowed to increase capacity up to 75% indoors and up to 100% outdoors.

Bars, conference centers and reception venues, sports arenas, and other venues for live performances can increase capacity up to 50 percent indoors and outdoors.

The mass gathering limit, which covers other kinds of gatherings not otherwise laid out in the order, will be increased to 50 indoors and 100 outdoors.

Activities and settings are lower risk when they involve interacting with fewer people, being outside, keeping masks on the entire time, keeping interactions with people short (under 15 minutes), staying physically distant, and avoiding singing, yelling, and cheering, according to public health officials.

North Carolina is continuing to see fast and fair vaccine distribution. To date, the state has administered over 4.1 million doses. Over 31.7 percent of people 18 and up have received at least one dose, and 18.8 percent are fully vaccinated. Vaccine equity efforts remain a priority, with 18 percent of first doses administered to Black North Carolinians and 8 percent to members of the LatinX community last week.

DHHS also released updates to the K-12 guidance. Schools should return to in-person instruction to the fullest extent possible while following all public health protocols in the StrongSchoolsNC Toolkit. This update aligns with Session Law 2021-4, which Governor Cooper and bipartisan legislative leadership worked on together. Plan A has already been widely adopted across the state as districts, educators and support staff have worked hard to get students back in the classroom. The updated Toolkit no longer requires schools to do daily temperature checks and symptom screenings. Safety protocols such as masks and cleaning of high traffic areas are still required. Schools are also highly encouraged to conduct free screening testing as recommended by the CDC. (Read the updated Toolkit)

Read Executive Order No. 204.

Read Frequently Asked Questions.

View the slides from today’s briefing.

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