Gov. Cooper

Gov. Roy Cooper speaks at a March 23 press conference.

RALEIGH — Gov. Roy Cooper announced a new executive order at a press conference March 23 that allows 75 percent capacity or more for many businesses including restaurants, amusement parks and gyms.

“Last month we cautiously eased some restrictions,” Cooper said. “This helped our economy continue to move forward while protecting our health. I’m pleased that we’re holding steady and our numbers remain stable.”

The new order allows restaurants, breweries and wineries, amusement parks, gyms and polls to have 75 percent capacity with 100 percent outdoor capacity.

Conference centers, bars, sports arenas and other live performance venues will be allowed to have 50 percent capacity with safety protocols — such as mask wearing and social distancing — in place. The 11 p.m. curfew for alcohol sales is also ended in the new order. The sports arena capacity includes high school sports venues.

Museums, aquariums, retail businesses and shops as well as barbers, salons and personal care businesses can open up at 100 percent.

“These are significant changes, but they can be done safely,” Cooper said. “We have said all along that the science and data would be our guide in this dimmer switch approach, and they show we can do this.”

Other mass gathering events that are not covered in the executive order are allowed 50 percent capacity indoors and 100 percent capacity outdoors. The mask mandate remains in place.

Mandy Cohen, secretary of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, said places such as bars and other indoor places where people gather without masks, the virus will spread.

“We’ve certainly seen that happen in some of our college campuses that are having some additional outbreaks,” Cohen said. “We’re seeing that in sports teams as well when folks are together not wearing their masks all the time and particularly when they’re indoors.”

Cohen said she does see places such as bars a higher risk setting, but because North Carolina trends are getting better, the state felt they could ease restrictions. While trends are improving, Cohen said the state is not out of the woods yet when it comes to COVID-19.

“We’re making positive progress, but our work is not done just yet,” Cohen said. “Please keep wearing a mask, waiting six feet apart and washing your hands while everyone gets a spot to get their shot.”

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