With COVID-19 cases declining and vaccines rolling out, states across the U.S. are beginning to lift restrictions on gatherings and businesses.

North Carolina may consider lifting restrictions, Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen says, but there’s no timeline for it yet.

“We were bursting, but we held it together and now we have some breathing room in our trends. I think if we continue to head in that direction and we see our vaccination growth, that is what will tell us,” Cohen told Spectrum News reporter Tim Boyum on an episode of his podcast released this week.  

“I do think we will be able to certainly loosen restrictions as we go, the question is just how fast.”

The average daily case count and number of people hospitalized with COVID have declined dramatically over the past month, according to the state’s COVID dashboard

There were 2,185 people in the hospital with coronavirus on Thursday, Feb. 11, a decline of nearly 45% from the peak on Jan. 11.

Cohen said the Cooper administration would continue to look at case counts and hospitalizations in making its decisions on lifting restrictions, but did not specify what levels they hoped to see.

She also said new variants of coronavirus, should they emerge and be more dangerous, were a significant “wildcard.” 

Florida and Iowa have rescinded virtually all of their pandemic restrictions, and Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds directed K-12 schools to offer 100% in-person instruction. Wyoming and Oklahoma have ended their curfew on bars and restaurants. Utah has lifted gathering restrictions. North Dakota has dropped its statewide mask mandates and increased the number of people allowed to gather indoors. 

Andrew Dunn is a freelance writer for Carolina Journal.