Gov. Cooper plans to lift social distancing and mass gathering restrictions by June 1

Coronavirus

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Gov. Roy Cooper announced Wednesday that he plans to lift most pandemic-related restrictions by June 1.

Cooper said trends remain stable though some have seen increases over the last couple of weeks, such as hospitalizations.

“The fact that our numbers aren’t yet declining reminds us how important it is to stay vigilant,” Cooper said.

He said he plans to issue an executive order next week outlining safety restrictions for May.

“With increasing vaccinations and ongoing work to slow the spread, I anticipate we’ll be able to lift all mandatory social distancing, capacity and mass gathering restrictions by June 1,” he said.

Dr. Mandy Cohen with the state health department said masks will still be needed after many other restrictions are lifted.

The governor said wants two-thirds of adults in the state to have at least once dose of a COVID-19 vaccine as soon as possible.

“As of today, almost half of adults have had at least one shot and more than a third are fully vaccinated. For our more vulnerable age 65 and older population, almost 77 percent have had at least one shot and more than 71 percent are fully vaccinated. That’s great news,” Cooper said.

Cohen said the mask mandate could be lifted if two-thirds of adults receive at least one dose of a vaccine and if trends remain stable.

“If you are 16 and older, it is your turn to join the more than 3.6 million North Carolinians who have already taken their first shot. It’s up to you to get us to the two-thirds goal as quickly as possible so we can live with this virus and begin to put this pandemic behind us,” Cohen said.


GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) — In Eastern North Carolina, business owners are excited about the possibility of loosened restrictions by summer.

After more than a year of empty tables and chairs, Greenville restaurant owners are looking forward to eased restrictions.

“Restaurants weren’t built to run on 50 percent, and they weren’t really meant to run on 75 percent,” said Brandon Qualls, owner of Ford + Shep. “Returning back to some sense of normalcy will definitely be a huge benefit for us and for all of us in town.”

Qualls said he’s seen an uptick in traffic along Dickinson Avenue recently. He hopes that will continue into the summer as rules relax by June 1.

“We’re able to add more tables back,” he said. “We’re able to seat more at the bar. It allows us to have increased revenue, which is something that we just haven’t had for the past year.”

Restaurant owners said the timing is everything.

“Occupancy already is decreased during the summer just with travel and kids out of school, so definitely important timing for sure,” said Qualls.

“We’ve been given a lot of time to know that ok it’s going to be June 1, so we can ramp up and be prepared,” said Jeremy Spengeman, owner of Basil’s.

Spengemen said lifting social distancing guidelines will make a huge difference at his restaurant.

 “When it changed to 75 percent occupancy, it really didn’t affect us because we’re still maintaining the six foot distancing requirement,” he said. “It will give us about 13 tables back.”

More tables equals more money.

“It won’t erase last year, but it will take some of that pressure off that, especially restaurant businesses need that little bit of help to get over that last little hurdle,” said Qualls.

Cooper is expected to announce an executive order next week with updated restrictions for May.

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