Gov. Roy Cooper is lifting North Carolina’s 10 p.m. curfew starting Friday and easing pandemic restrictions on everything from bars and taverns to amusement parks and entertainment venues.
The state’s mandatory mask mandate will remain in place, Cooper said during a Wednesday afternoon news conference.
Gyms, museums, aquariums, barbers, pools, outdoor amusement parks, retail establishments, restaurants, breweries and wineries may now open at 50% capacity with health and safety protocols. The time for ending on-site service of alcohol will be moved to 11 p.m.
Some businesses that were limited to operating outdoors at 30% capacity will still have that percentage but will no longer have a 100-person cap. That includes sports fields and venues, stadiums, outdoor bars, outdoor amusement parks and other outdoor businesses, Cooper said.
The new rules will also allow some indoor businesses to open at 30% capacity with a cap of 250 people. These businesses include bars and taverns, indoor amusement parks, movie theaters, indoor sports arenas and others.
An exception for larger indoor arenas with a capacity of more than 5,000 people will allow up to 15% capacity if more safety protocols are followed. Most college and professional indoor sports like basketball and hockey can have fans at 15% capacity with certain protocols, he said.
Bars and taverns will be allowed to open indoors for the first time since near the beginning of the pandemic. Capacity indoors is 30% and officials will enforce this limit, he said. Like restaurants and other venues, alcohol sales must stop at 11 p.m.
Mass gathering limits will also be increased to 25 indoors and 50 outdoors.
“Easing these restrictions will only work if we keep protecting ourselves and others from this deadly virus,” Cooper said. “The order and our own common sense say that health and safety protocols must remain in place.”
Cooper said declines in COVID-19 neighbors and an increase in the number of people vaccinated made the eased restrictions possible.
“We are making progress. In addition to our improved COVID-19 numbers, we have seen a significant decline in flus and severe colds this year. Many people are wearing masks and social distancing, and it is making a difference,” he said.
“Today’s action is a show of confidence and trust, but we must remain cautious. People are losing their loved ones each day. Many of us are weary, but we cannot let the weariness win. Now is the time to put our strength and resilience to work so we can continue to turn the corner.”
This story originally appeared on OBXToday.com. Read More local stories here.