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Governor eases more COVID limits
Wednesday, 31 March 2021 22:19

N.C. metrics, vax rate improving; masks, social distancing still mandated

From Staff Reports 

RALEIGH — As North Carolina’s trends continue to show improvement and vaccine distribution increases with 31.7 percent of North Carolinians over 18 having received at least one dose of vaccine, Governor Roy Cooper announced March 23 that the state will continue to ease some COVID-19 restrictions.

To that end, the governor said Executive Order No. 204 will take effect at 5 p.m. March 26 and is set to expire at 5 p.m. April 30. The state’s general mask mandate remains in effect.

“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 March 23 press briefing.

Also speaking at the briefing was Dr. Mandy K. Cohen, secretary of the NCDHHS, who asserted, “We are in a promising place. With North Carolina’s COVID-19 key metrics improving and vaccinations increasing, we can responsibly use our dimmer switch approach to easing restrictions guided by science and data.”

The new executive order “has three general categories of occupancy restrictions: up to 100 percent capacity, 75 percent capacity, and 50 percent capacity,” a press release from the governor’s office stated. “All businesses must continue to maintain the 6 feet of distance requirement between patrons and implement other safety protocols as they expand their capacity.

“Executive Order No. 204 will also increase mass gathering limits. The number of people who may gather indoors will increase from 25 to 50 and the number of people who may gather outdoors will increase from 50 to 100. This order also fully lifts the restriction on the late-night sale and service of alcoholic beverages on bars, restaurants and other establishments.”

Indoors and outdoors up to 100 percent capacity, subject to masks and 6-ft. social distancing:

• Museums and aquariums

• Retail businesses

• Salons, personal care and grooming businesses, tattoo parlors


Indoors up to 75 percent and outdoors up to 100 percent capacity, subject to masks and 6-ft. social distancing: 

• Restaurants 

• Breweries, wineries, and distilleries

• Recreation (e.g., bowling, skating, rock climbing)

• Fitness and physical activity facilities (e.g., gyms, yoga studios, fitness centers)

• Pools

• Amusement parks


Indoors and outdoors up to 50 percent capacity, subject to masks and 6-ft. social distancing:

• Bars

• Movie theaters*

• Gaming facilities*

• Meeting, reception, and conference spaces

• Lounges (including tobacco) and nightclubs

• Auditoriums, arenas, and other venues for live performances

• Sports arenas and fields (includes professional, collegiate and amateur

* Movie theaters and gaming facilities may operate at up to 75 percent capacity outdoors.

“Activities and settings are lower risk when they involve interacting with fewer people, being outside, keeping masks on the entire time, keeping interactions with people short (under 15 minutes), staying physically distant, and avoiding singing, yelling, and cheering, according to public health officials,” the press release from the governor’s office noted.

“North Carolina is continuing to see fast and fair vaccine distribution. To date, the state has administered over 4.1 million doses. Over 31.7 percent of people 18 and up have received at least one dose, and 18.8 percent are fully vaccinated. Vaccine equity efforts 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.”

Also at the March 23 press briefing, “DHHS released updates to the K-12 guidance,” the press release stated. “Schools should return to in-person instruction to the fullest extent possible, while following all public health protocols in the StrongSchoolsNC Toolkit.

“This update aligns with Session Law 2021-4, which Governor Cooper and bipartisan legislative leadership worked on together. 

“Plan A has already been widely adopted across the state as districts, educators and support staff have worked hard to get students back in the classroom. 

“The updated Toolkit no longer requires schools to do daily temperature checks and symptom screenings. Safety protocols such as masks and cleaning of high traffic areas are still required. Schools are also highly encouraged to conduct free screening testing as recommended by the CDC.

“State health officials are continuing to monitor the presence of COVID-19 and its more contagious variants in North Carolina, which is why it is important to continue to have a mask mandate and continue to practice safety precautions, including the Three Ws—wear a mask, wait 6 feet apart, and wash hands often,” the press release concluded.



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