Governor to loosen some restrictions

Gov. Roy Cooper
Gov. Roy Cooper

Some types of businesses may reopen at 100 percent capacity beginning Friday at 5 p.m., Gov. Roy Cooper announced this afternoon in his weekly COVID-19 update.

Museums, aquariums, and retail businesses will be able to open at full capacity Friday with the issuance of a new executive order. Restaurants, bars, gyms, salons and personal care businesses may reopen at 75 percent capacity indoors, with 100 percent outdoors. Bars, arenas, and event venues for live performances and sports will move to 50 percent, while the controversial “church restriction” on other types of gathering places will rise to 50 people indoors and up to 100 outside.

The 11 p.m. shutoff for alcohol sales will also be lifted with the new executive order.

Cooper credited the “courage” of people wearing masks “anytime you are out in public” with the reduction in state cases.

“With the new and more contagious variants making their way into North Carolina, masks are even more important right now,” Cooper said.

Statewide, Cooper said, cases are slowing. More than 899,000 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in North Carolina, with 11,854 deaths since the pandemic was declared March 20,2020.

Secretary of the Division of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Mandy Cohen said the state’s key metrics are all showing improvements, although new cases are leveling out at just below five percent.

Emergency room visits with COVID-like symptoms have dropped, Cohen said, but the numbers remain high in all cases.

“We will still need to wear masks, wash our hands, and practice social distancing,” she said. “We still need to avoid situations where people yell, cheer or sing. Larger outside gatherings are safer now, but all gatherings should be socially distanced, everyone should wear a mask and there shouldn’t be more than ten people together at one time, and then it should be brief,” under 15 minutes.

North Carolina’s vaccine distribution is continuing to expands Cooper said. The state has administered over 4.1 million doses. As of Tuesday, 31.7 percent of people 18 and up have received at least one dose, and 18.8 percent are fully vaccinated. Last week, 18 percent of first doses administered to Black North Carolinians and 8 percent to members of the Latin community.
Cooper also touted the return to conventional instruction in almost all the state’s schools. 

Schools should return to in-person instruction to “the fullest extent possible while following all public health protocols,” Cohen said. Safety protocols such as masks and cleaning of high traffic areas are still required. Schools are also highly encouraged to conduct free screening testing as recommended.

“This is not the time to relax,” Cooper warned. “We’re not out of the woods yet.”

The new executive order will go into place Friday at 5 p.m.

About Jefferson Weaver 1954 Articles
Jefferson Weaver is the Managing Editor of Columbus County News and he can be reached at (910) 914-6056, (910) 632-4965, or by email at [email protected].