Gov. Roy Cooper on Tuesday announced what he called “a careful step forward” in reopening North Carolina amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Starting Friday, Sept. 4, at 5 p.m., the state will move to phase 2.5 of the reopening plan, which will ease some restrictions and allow additional facilities to open.
Limits on mass gatherings will increase to 25 people indoors and 50 people outdoors, Cooper said. Playgrounds will open. Museums and aquariums can open at 50 percent.
The governor announced that gyms and other indoor exercise facilities can open at 30 percent capacity. At least three gyms in Columbus County have been open since June based on guidance from the state Attorney General’s Office stating that such facilities could reopen to serve people “when that use is prescribed by or directed by a medical professional.”
In phase 2.5, the age requirement for mask wearing will include children down to age 5.
Capacity limits at restaurants and personal care businesses like hair and nail salons will stay the same.
Some places will remain closed, including bars, nightclubs, movie theaters, indoor entertainment and amusement parks.
Large venues will still be subject to mass gathering limits.
The 11 p.m. curfew on alcohol sales at restaurants has been extended until Oct. 2.
“Our at-risk population is still safer at home,” Cooper said. “For those over 65 and those with health risks, we urge responsibility in your choices.”
Cooper said “after a summer of hard work,” the state has seen its key COVID-19 indicators remain stable or improve in some cases.
“We’re encouraged but cautious,” Cooper said. “Stability isn’t victory. The forest isn’t as thick, but we’re not out of the woods.”