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The opening of bars (indoors) and other mandates provide a glimmer of light at the end of this very long tunnel.
WEB EXCLUSIVE North Carolina is at a turning point in the coronavirus pandemic. In a press conference held Wednesday, Feb. 24, Gov. Roy Cooper announced he is easing a number of restrictions and ending the modified stay-at-home order due to the state’s declining and stabilizing case count, hospitalization and death rates. “We have reasons for hope in North Carolina,” Cooper said in the press conference. “We’re making progress.”
Cooper’s new COVID-19 guidelines, which go into effect this Friday, Feb. 26, include the following:
- The modified stay-at-home order has been lifted—North Carolinians are no longer restricted from leaving their homes between the hours of 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. and establishments are allowed to stay open during that time.
- Alcohol can now be served on-site until 11pm.
- Restaurants, breweries, wineries, retail stores, gyms, museums, aquariums, barbers (and other personal care establishments), pools and outdoor amusement parks remain at 50% operating capacity.
- Bars and taverns, indoor amusement parks, movie theaters, and indoor sports arenas may open indoors at 30% capacity, with a cap of 250 people. Larger indoor venues with a capacity of over 5,000 people are allowed up to 15% capacity with no individual-person cap. This is the first time that most of these establishments have been able to open indoors since March.
- Businesses that were operating at 30% capacity—outdoor sports fields and venues, outdoor bars, outdoor amusement parks, and other outdoor businesses—no longer have a 100-person cap.
- Mass gatherings increased to 25 indoors and 50 outdoors.
- Cocktails to-go are permitted through March 31.
- The mask mandate and social-distancing guidelines remain in effect.
“Easing these restrictions will only work if we keep protecting ourselves and others,” said Cooper in the press conference. “Today’s action is a show of confidence and trust, but we must remain cautious. We’re depending on people to stay responsible; carelessness could lead to a backslide.”
Cooper warns that we are still far from the end of the pandemic, however. Millions of North Carolinians still need to get vaccinated, and the state is in short supply. So far, over 1 million people in NC have received the vaccine, and Cooper is working to get more from the federal government.
The fact that vaccinations are going up and case numbers are going down is a sign that North Carolina is headed in the right direction. “People deserve a pat on the back,” Cooper said. And a drink (inside of a bar! After 9pm!) if we do say so ourselves.
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