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Cooper eases restrictions on bars, theaters, stadiums

Citing improving numbers on new cases and hospitalizations and an uptick in vaccine distribution, Gov. Roy Cooper announced a new executive order on Wednesday that increases in capacity for indoor arenas and outdoor stadiums, allows bars to reopen inside and lifts a modified stay-home order.

The new executive order takes effect at 5 p.m. Friday and expires on March 26.

“Today’s action is a show of confidence and trust, but we must remain cautious," Cooper said. "People are losing their loved ones each day. We must keep up our guard. Many of us are weary, but we cannot let the weariness win. Now is the time to put our strength and resilience to work so that we can continue to turn the corner and get through this.”

“Keep wearing a mask, waiting 6 feet apart, and washing your hands," North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy K. Cohen added. "We’ve seen in the past how fragile progress can be, so we need to keep protecting each other while we get everyone a spot to get their shot,” said
Under the new order, the number of people who may gather indoors will increase from 10 to 25, while 50 remains the limit for outdoors. The curfew on the sale of alcohol for onsite consumption moves from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. Some businesses, including bars and amusement parks, will now be open for patrons indoors as they adhere to new occupancy restrictions. Many businesses, venues and arenas will have increased occupancy both indoors and outdoors.
The order has two general categories of occupancy restrictions: 30 percent capacity and 50 percent capacity. Because indoor spaces have a higher risk of spread for Covid-19, indoor facilities in the 30 percent occupancy category may not exceed 250 people per indoor room or indoor space.

At outdoor sporting events, the facility must limit spectators to 30 percent of the facility’s stated fire capacity or seven guests for every 1,000 square feet. At indoor sporting events, the facility must limit spectators to 30 percent of the stated fire capacity of each indoor room or space, with a maximum of 250 people allowed in each indoor room or space.

Thirty percent capacity businesses include:
— Bars
— Meeting, Reception, and Conference Spaces
— Lounges (including tobacco) and Night Clubs
— Indoor areas of Amusement Parks
— Movie Theatres
— Entertainment facilities (e.g., bingo parlors, gaming establishments)

Indoor event venues with more than 5,000 seats may be excepted from the 250 person limit if they follow additional safety measures up to 15% capacity.

Fifty percent capacity businesses include:
— Restaurants
— Breweries, Wineries, Distilleries
— Fitness and Physical Activity Facilities (e.g., gyms, bowling alleys, rock climbing facilities)
— Pools
— Museums and aquariums
— Retailers
— Outdoor areas of amusement parks
— Salons, Personal Care, Tattoo Parlors

Safety protocols such as masks, social distancing and frequent handwashing will continue to be important as people adjust to the new order, health officials said.
Wednesday also marked the first day of eligibility for teachers to receive vaccination as the state begins to expand access to group 3 essential workers. Due to manufacturers’ shipping delays caused by inclement weather, DHHS continues to work with providers to administer both last week’s shipment and this week’s shipment this week and continue to exhaust first dose supply before next week’s shipment arrives.