Safer at Home Phase 2.5: Gyms can operate at 30% capacity, playgrounds may reopen

North Carolina news

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Gov. Roy Cooper announced Tuesday that North Carolina will move into his Safer at Home Phase 2.5 on Friday.

“I want to be clear, we can do this safely only if we keep doing what we know works, wearing masks and social distancing. Moving to Phase 2.5 means we can safely do a few more things while still fighting the virus as vigorously as ever,” Cooper said.

Phase 2.5 starts at 5 p.m. Friday.

Gyms may operate at 30 percent capacity while museums and aquariums can open to 50 percent capacity.

The announcement came the same day major fitness chains Planet Fitness and Crunch opened their doors for the first time, citing an exception outlined by the state Attorney General’s Office allowing people to use the facilities for a medical purpose. Managers said they are not asking for medical note. 

Tommy Seay, of Raleigh, went to Planet Fitness Tuesday for the first time since the pandemic began. 

He said he agreed with Cooper’s decision to hold off until now to open gyms. 

“He’s done a great job on delaying the process to save as many people as possible,” Seay said. 

Robert Meyer, also of Raleigh, said he thinks the decision is overdue. 

“In hopes of keeping everybody as healthy as they can, the gyms should have been open sooner,” he said. 

Playgrounds may reopen as well in addition to bowling alleys, skating rinks, yoga studios, martial arts facilities, rock climbing gyms and indoor basketball and volleyball facilities.  

The age requirement for mask wearing will include children down to age 5.

“Some places will remain closed including bars, nightclubs, movie theaters, indoor entertainment and amusement parks,” Cooper said. “Large venues will still be subject to the mass gathering limits. We know big gatherings are among the most dangerous settings for transmission of this deadly virus.”

Capacity limits at restaurants and personal care businesses such as hair and nail salons will stay the same. For all of these, there will be additional safety measures required.

“So let’s keep doing what we know works. Let’s stay strong, and let’s beat this virus. I know we can, and I know we can come out stronger on the other side,” Cooper said.

Dr. Mandy Cohen, secretary for the Department of Health and Human Services, said the number of people going to the emergency room with COVID-like symptoms has been declining for a month.

“Overall metrics show signs of stability,” Cohen said.

Cohen said the trajectory of cases was head down until mid-August when there was a spike among 18-25-year-olds due to colleges and universities going back to class.

The number of new daily cases remains high.

Hospitalizations are declining and the percentage of positives is stable, Cohen said.

“Moving forward doesn’t mean letting up,” Cohen said.

She said North Carolinians needs to remain vigilant to help slow the spread of COVID-19.

“The unfortunate truth is that his pandemic is not yet over,” Cohen said.

She also reiterated some of the same concerns she’s expressed for months about indoor gyms and fitness centers reopening. She urged people to consider whether it’s the right decision for them to return. 

“I want to remind folks to think about their own personal health risk or their family’s health risk. We know that more than half of adults in North Carolina have at least one chronic disease that puts them at higher risk for COVID,” she said.  

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