News: Quick Takes

As vaccinations rise, Cooper takes steps to further ease COVID-19 restrictions

Gov. Roy Cooper during a news conference March 10 to announce plan to reopen schools. (CJ photo by Maya Reagan)
Gov. Roy Cooper during a news conference March 10 to announce plan to reopen schools. (CJ photo by Maya Reagan)

Gov. Roy Cooper is further easing restrictions on state residents and businesses that began one year ago because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Cooper’s latest executive order takes effect 5 p.m. Friday, March 26, and expires April 30. The state’s general mask mandate remains in effect. Cooper says 31% of North Carolinians older than 18 have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

“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,” said Cooper said in a statement.

The order increases mass-gathering limits, increasing the number from 25 to 50, and the number of people who may gather outdoors from 50 to 100. This order also fully lifts the restriction on late-night sale and service of alcoholic beverages in bars, restaurants, and other establishments, a news release says.

Some venues, such as museums and retail businesses, can open at 100% capacity, subject to mask and social-distancing rules. Restaurants, for instance, can open at 75% capacity indoors, and outdoors at 100%. Same goes for wineries, breweries, and distilleries. Bars and movie theaters can open at 50% capacity, indoors and out. Cooper is also removing the 11 p.m. curfew for alcohol sales.

The state health department also released updates for K-12 schools, which should return to in-person instruction to the fullest extent possible while following all public health protocols in the StrongSchoolsNC Toolkit, the release says. The update aligns with a new law reopening schools.

“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,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen.