From WSJ Staff Reports
During a Wednesday press conference. Gov. Roy Cooper said a 10 p.m. curfew he mandated to limit the spread of the COVID-19 virus will end on Friday, Feb. 26. The statewide mandatory mask mandate will remain.
“After alarmingly high numbers throughout the winter holidays, North Carolina’s trends have declined and stabilized,” Cooper said.
“Hospitalizations have dropped to their lowest point since before Thanksgiving. The percent of tests returning positive continues to decline. This is encouraging.”
Cooper lifted his modified stay-at-home order, which closed non-essential businesses like gyms, retail and restaurants, at 10 p.m.
Non-essential businesses can remain open late, but alcohol sales will still have a curfew of 11 p.m.
Cooper eased other pandemic-related restrictions, such as allowing bars to seat customers indoors for the first time in nearly a year and allowing more spectators at sporting events.
The changes take effect Friday, Feb. 26, and are set to expire in late March.
Mass gathering limits of 10 people indoors and 50 people outdoors will remain in place.
“As more people get together, it will become more vital. We’re still in the middle of a pandemic,” Cooper said.
“When it comes to easing some restrictions we’re just depending on people to be responsible.”
Cooper’s changes affect bars and establishments where food sales make up less than 30% of sales. Bars will be allowed to open at 30% capacity with a cap of 250 people for the first time since March 2020.
Gyms, museums, aquariums, barbershops, pools, outdoor amusement parks, retail establishments, restaurants, breweries and wineries will be able to open at 50%
Businesses limited to operating outdoors at 30% capacity will still go by that percentage but will no longer have a 100-person limit. Athletic fields and venues, stadiums, outdoor bars, outdoor amusement parks and other outdoor businesses fall under this restriction.
Cooper’s new mandate will allow some indoor businesses to open at 30% capacity with a limit of 250 people. This will include bars, indoor amusement parks, movie theaters, indoor sports arenas and others.
”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.