RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Outdoor event venues, movie theaters, and bars can all open at reduced capacity Friday as North Carolina continues to reopen during the COVID-19 pandemic.
On Tuesday, Gov. Roy Cooper announced that Phase 3 will begin Friday and run through Oct. 23
“The virus continues to spread, so we must take the next steps methodically and responsibly. And we must rely on North Carolinians taking personal responsibility to protect others by wearing masks and keeping their social distance,” said Cooper.
Both Cooper and Department of Heatlh and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen called the state’s hold on the virus “fragile,” and said the next steps forward would be measured.
In Phase 3, movie theaters and conference center can reopen at 30-percent capacity or 100-seated guests per screen, whichever is less.
Bars can reopen outdoors only at 30-percent capacity or 100 guests – whichever is less. Cohen clarified that means no more than seven people per every 1,000 feet of outdoor space.
Outdoor amusement parks may open at 30-percent occupancy.
Large outdoor venues with seating greater than 10,000 may operate with 7 percent occupancy with other safety protocols in place.
On Sept. 22, Cooper announced the changes to large outdoor venues.
Cohen said based on research, 7 percent capacity was determined to be a good number to enable people to social distance.
Smaller outdoor entertainment venues may operate outdoors at 30 percent of outdoor capacity or 100 guests, whichever is less.
The 11 p.m. curfew on alcohol sales in restaurants and outdoor bars has been extended.
The limits on mass gatherings will remain at 25 people indoors and 50 people outdoors.
Cooper said his main goal is to be able to allow students to return to in person learning.
“Our children can go back to school and our economy can fully rebuild when we’re safe, and people have confidence that they can stay healthy,” he said.
Cooper said he is cautiously optimistic about where the state is in terms of slowing the spread of COVID-19.
However, he pointed warning signs of another spike of the disease in North Carolina and across the U.S.
“Progress in fragile. We cannot take anything for granted,” said Cohen.
According to Cohen, the number of COVID-19 cases in the state is currently below peaks in July and August.
“Cases have leveled, but we want to see them decline,” she said.
Cohen said while that state remained at under 5 percent, tests coming back positive over the last two weeks, they are back up over 6 percent in the past two days.
Cohen highlighted an increase in cases in the northeast part of North Carolina along with the sandhills.
Both Cooper and Cohen encouraged everyone to social distance, and get a flu shot.
He said the mask mandate will remain important until there is a cure or vaccine for COVID-19.
“Our stability is fragile, and with cooler weather and flu season comes new challenges. While we are methodical and cautious about easing restrictions, we need to keep using proven measures: wearing a mask, waiting 6-feet apart and washing our hands often,” said Cooper.