Virus Outbreak North Carolina

Dr. Mandy Cohen, secretary of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, and North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper trade places at the podium during a coronavirus press briefing on Thursday, Sept. 17, at the Emergency Operations Center in Raleigh.

RALEIGH — Gov. Roy Cooper announced that North Carolina moved into Phase 3 of the statewide reopening plan on Friday, Oct. 2.

Large outdoor venues with seating greater than 10,000 may operate with 7 percent occupancy for spectators with other safety protocols, Cooper said during a press briefing in Raleigh. Smaller outdoor entertainment venues may operate outdoors at 30 percent of outdoor capacity or 100 guests, whichever is less, he said.

Movie theaters and conference centers may open indoor spaces to 30 percent of capacity, or 100 seated guests, whichever is less. Bars may operate outdoors only at 30 percent of outdoor capacity, or 100 guests, whichever is less. Outdoor amusement parks may open at 30 percent occupancy.

The limits on mass gatherings will remain at 25 people indoors and 50 people outdoors, Cooper noted. The 11 p.m. curfew on alcohol sales for in-person consumption in locations such as restaurants and outdoor bars will also be extended.

The statewide mask mandate for everyone over the age of 5 remains in effect, and adults over 65 and those with health risks are still advised to stay home as much as possible, the governor said.

“Today, we’re cautiously encouraged about where we are in this pandemic. The key indicators we watch in North Carolina remain mostly stable,” Cooper said. “But I have to tell you that we see warning signs that the disease could spike again, here and across the country.”

Phase 3 will be effective through Friday, Oct. 23. Cooper said the phase is currently limited to three weeks due to concerns about the potential for increased viral spread as the state experiences cooler fall weather.

“I hope we can keep our numbers down and stable and that we can continue to move forward,” he added.

“The virus continues to spread, so we must take the next steps methodically and responsibly. And we must rely on North Carolinians taking personal responsibility to protect others by wearing masks and keeping their social distance,” Cooper said.

Cooper said that state leaders’ top priority remains getting children back to in-person learning at school. But Cooper and N.C. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen also repeatedly emphasized their concerns about indoor gatherings.

“We have seen over and over that this virus can spread easily in groups of people,” Cohen said. “We cannot take anything for granted. Across the country, cases are beginning to increase again.”

Cohen reminded North Carolinians to practice the 3 Ws — wear, wait and wash — to get their flu shots and to downloading the new SlowCOVIDNC app, which can let users know if they’ve been exposed to someone with the virus.

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Tom Mayer is the executive editor of Mountain Times Publications, a group of five news newspapers, six websites and one monthly periodical in the High Country of North Carolina.

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