By Mark Jurkowitz | Outer Banks Voice on March 23, 2021
Stating that “we are still seeing improvement with our COVID metrics,” Governor Roy Cooper has issued a new Executive Order easing a number of capacity restrictions for businesses and venues in North Carolina. The new Order, announced at a March 23 press briefing, takes effect on Friday, March 26.
Noting that six feet of social distancing and mask wearing mandates are still in place, Cooper said that operations such as museums, retail businesses, personal care businesses and the outdoor spaces of restaurants, amusement parks, fitness facilities and pools can now operate at 100% capacity.
The inside spaces of restaurants, fitness facilities and amusement parks will now be able to function at 75% of capacity. And the indoor areas of movies and entertainment facilities, as well as indoor and outdoor spaces at bars and conference centers and sports arenas and fields can now operate at 50% capacity.
The mass gathering limits have also been eased, with the indoor number going from 25 to 50 and the outdoor number increasing from 50-100. The new Order also lifts restrictions on the late-night sale of alcohol in bars and restaurants.
Cooper also said that some businesses may not be able to open to the new capacity limits if they do not have the space to do so while observing the six-foot social distancing mandates.
The mood at the March 23 media briefing was upbeat, with NC Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen declaring: “We’re in a promising place.” State officials also announced that to date, about 32% of North Carolina residents 18 and over had been partially vaccinated and about 19% have been fully vaccinated.
When asked by a reporter about the growing number of North Carolina COVID cases that are now attributed COVID variants in the state, Cohen said the number of those cases are still “pretty small.” But she expressed some caution, adding that such potentially complicating factors are a major reason why the state has taken a measured “dimmer switch” approach to easing restrictions.
For his part, Cooper also noted that the current vaccines are “pretty effective” against the variants.