Gov. Cooper to lift state-wide curfew while easing other COVID-19 restrictions

North Carolina news

Bars and taverns can reopen indoors for the first time since near the beginning of the pandemic.

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Gov. Roy Cooper is easing some COVID-19-related restrictions while lifting the state-wide curfew on Friday.

“That means no more curfew starting Friday, and more opportunities to gather, shop and attend events if done safely,” Cooper said.

The mandatory mask mandate won’t change.

Cooper said a new executive order will ease several restrictions.

Read Executive Order 195

Many businesses and venues will be able to stay at or expand to 50 percent occupancy while still maintaining health and safety protocols.

Gyms, museums, aquariums, barbers, pools, outdoor amusement parks, retail establishments, restaurants, breweries and wineries may now open at 50 percent capacity with health and safety protocols.

The time for ending on-site service of alcohol will be moved to 11 p.m.

Some businesses that were limited to operating outdoors at 30 percent capacity will still have that percentage but will no longer have a 100-person cap.

That includes:

  • Sports fields and venues
  • Stadiums
  • Outdoor bars
  • Outdoor amusement parks
  • Other outdoor businesses

The new executive order will also allow some indoor businesses to open at 30 percent capacity with a cap of 250 people.

These businesses include:

  • Bars and taverns
  • Indoor amusement parks
  • Movie theaters
  • Indoor sports arenas

“We have reason for hope in North Carolina. Fewer are getting sick. Fewer are needing a hospital. All the metrics that we measure continue to stabilize,” Cooper said.

Cooper said North Carolina’s “alarmingly high numbers” from the holidays have stabilized.

“Hospitalizations have dropped to their lowest point since before Thanksgiving. The percent of tests returning positive continues to decline. This is encouraging,” Cooper said.

In response to Cooper’s announcement, Zack Medford, president of the NC Bar and Tavern Association said, “While this decision has come too late for many bars to ever reopen, the survivors are more than ready to welcome guests back into their barrooms.”

Dr. Mandy Cohen spoke to state lawmakers Tuesday.

In response to questions about the COVID-19 restrictions, she reiterated some of the concerns she’s expressed throughout the pandemic about the increased potential for the virus to spread in bars.

When asked Wednesday why the state is moving forward with allowing indoor service at bars, she said, “Folks need to be wearing their masks any time they’re not actively eating or drinking. So, we think with those protocols in place it is the right time to take this step forward. It is just a step.”

The announcement came amid a push by parents and Republican lawmakers in recent weeks for Cooper to allow more people to attend high school games, such as football, which will resume at the end of this week.

A bill filed in the Senate last week would allow for outdoor high school sports to operate at 40 percent of capacity.

Cooper’s announcement Wednesday will allow them to have fans at 30 percent of capacity.

Sen. Todd Johnson (R-Union) said he’s still planning to move forward with his bill.

“I appreciate the Governor’s move today, which will provide some immediate relief. But, it doesn’t make much sense to me to allow 50 percent capacity inside restaurants where it’s physically impossible to always wear a mask, and allow only 30 percent capacity at wide open outdoor speorts venues,” Johnson said.

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