Gov. Cooper Feb. 24 press

Gov. Roy Cooper speaks at a Feb. 24 press conference.

RALEIGH — Gov. Roy Cooper announced on Feb. 24 a new executive order that eases restrictions and lifts the Stay-at-Home order curfew beginning Feb. 26.

"When it comes to easing some restrictions, we're depending on people to be responsible," Cooper said. 

The new order allows gyms, museums, aquariums, barbers, pools, outdoor amusement parks, retail establishments, restaurants, breweries and wineries to now open at 50 percent capacity with health and safety protocols. Alcohol can now be sold until 11 p.m.

Some businesses that operate outdoors will still have to limit the capacity to 30 percent, but will no longer have a 100-person cap. Cooper said that includes sports fields and venues, stadiums, outdoor bars, outdoor amusement parks and other outdoor businesses.
Larger indoor arenas with a capacity of more than 5,000 people will be able to have a 15 percent capacity. Most college and professional indoor sports such as basketball and hockey can have fans at 15 percent capacity with certain protocols.
Cooper also said bars and taverns will be allowed to open indoors for the first time since near the beginning of the pandemic a year ago at 30 percent capacity. 
"Today's action is a show of confidence and trust, but we must remain cautious," Cooper said. "People are losing their loved ones each day. We must keep up our guard. Many of us are weary, but we cannot let the weariness when. Now is the time to put our strength and resilience to work, so that we continue to turn the corner and get through this pandemic." 
The mandatory mask mandate is still required. 
"We are serious about slowing the spread of this virus, and I think that people have pulled together," Cooper said. "I think there has been a positive effect and people deserve a pat on the back. We said all along that if our data indicates that, we will ease these restrictions." 

Mandy Cohen, secretary of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human services, said the the number of people who are going to the emergency department for COVID-19 like symptoms is decreasing. Cases have started to decline since the COVID-19 cases peaked in North Carolina on Jan. 10. Hospitalizations are also "significantly" better than when they were a month ago, Cohen said. 

"North Carolina's trajectory of cases is decreasing, however cases remain elevated and with those new COVID-19 variants in the state we need to keep our guard up," Cohen said. "While we're improving since our peak in January, we still have more work to do."

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