NC to ease restrictions, including gathering sizes, beginning Friday evening

Published 3:32 pm Tuesday, March 23, 2021

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As the state’s COVID-19 metrics continue to improve, Gov. Roy Cooper on Tuesday announced he will ease several coronavirus restrictions later this week.

“Our fast and fair vaccine distribution and our sustained progress with the COVID-19 metrics tell us we can move forward with easing restrictions if we do it safely,” Cooper said during a press conference.

The easing of restrictions are as follows:

  • Gathering size limit will increase to 5o people indoors and 100 people outdoors. It previously was set for 25 people indoors and 50 people outdoors.
  • Retail stores, salons, museums and aquariums will be allowed to open at 100 percent capacity, up from 5o percent.
  • Restaurants, breweries, gyms and pools will be open at 75 percent capacity indoors, up from 50 percent, and 100 percent outdoors.
  • Bars, conference centers, music venues, sports arenas (including high schools) will be allowed to open at 50 percent capacity, up from 30 percent.

Cooper’s newest executive order, which will go into effect 5 p.m. Friday, also fully lifts the restriction on the late-night sale and service of alcoholic beverages on bars, restaurants, and other establishments. This curfew had been set at 11 p.m. since late Feb.

Throughout the state, people in Groups 1 through the first part of Group 4 are getting vaccinated. Cooper also said all North Carolinians will be eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine by May 1, the timeline set by President Joe Biden.

All businesses across the state will still need to adhere to maintaining social distancing measures and people need to still wear masks when in public.

“We can ease restrictions because our trends are moving in the right direction, but we’re not out of the woods yet,” said N.C. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen. “This virus is here, this virus is changing, it’s still contagious and it is still cruel.”

Metrics like hospitalizations and percent of visits to the emergency department for COVID-like symptoms have decreased while percent of tests returning positive is below the benchmark goal of 5 percent, Cohen said.

To date, the state has administered over 4.1 million vaccine doses. Roughly 32 percent of people 18 and up have received at least one dose, and 19 percent are fully vaccinated. Vaccine equity efforts still remain a priority, with 18 percent of first doses administered to Black North Carolinians and 8 percent to members of the LatinX community last week.

In Stanly County, 17 percent of people 18 and up have received at least one dose while almost 11 percent are fully vaccinated.

To date, the state has almost 900,000 total cases with less than 1,000 people currently hospitalized and 11,854 people who have died after contracting the virus. Stanly County has had more than 7,000 cases with 129 people having died.



About Chris Miller

Chris Miller has been with the SNAP since January 2019. He is a graduate of NC State and received his Master's in Journalism from the University of Maryland. He previously wrote for the Capital News Service in Annapolis, where many of his stories on immigration and culture were published in national papers via the AP wire.

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