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.
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. Indoor bars and taverns can open at 30% capacity on Friday for the first time since last March. That’s great news for bar owners in Greenville and surrounding areas.
“It’s definitely a step in the right direction,” said Rob Waldron, owner of 519 in Uptown Greenville. “We closed March 17, 2020. Hell on earth. It’s a little late, but better late than never.”
“Am I happy? I guess you could call it that, but I’m not happy that it has taken a year to reopen, ya know my business to 30 percent,” said Tony Frazier, owner of Rafters Social Club. “What do we do in two days? How do we staff a bar in two days that we haven’t opened in a year?”
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.
- Sports fields and venues
- 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.
East Carolina University Director of Athletics Jon Gilbert issued a statement on Cooper’s Executive Order.
“We are thankful for today’s executive order that will allow additional fans into our athletic venues. As we begin the process of welcoming fans back to our athletic facilities, our priority remains to create an atmosphere that is safe for all involved. We will continue to work with the university, local and state health officials who have assisted us throughout the pandemic.
“The support of ECU students, season-ticket holders and Pirate Club members are crucial to the success of our athletics department and we will do everything possible to accommodate the needs of our supporters. We will communicate a more detailed plan on how seats will be allocated and access for our spring sports in the coming days.
“We are eager to have Pirate Nation back!”
NC House Speaker Tim Moore was also pleased to hear the news.
“We are encouraged that the intent and action of the General Assembly has led the Governor in this direction since we returned to session, as lawmakers answered to our constituents all across this state who believe that we need to be safely reopening schools and businesses,” Moore said Wednesday.
“I have spoken to the Governor and shared with him our thoughts that we really need to be reopening the state. The trends are moving in the right direction, many of the restrictions go too far, and we have businesses who are really hurting.”
“North Carolina has lagged behind most of our neighboring states when it comes to reopening. I am glad the Governor has taken this step and the General Assembly will continue to advocate for safely reopening schools and the economy.”