Governor eases COVID-19 restrictions

Published 3:48 pm Wednesday, February 24, 2021

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RALEIGH – As North Carolina’s numbers continue to show improvement and vaccine distribution increases, Governor Roy Cooper announced today (Wednesday) that the state will carefully ease some of its COVID-19 restrictions.

Executive Order No. 195 will take effect at 5 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 26 and will expire at 5 p.m. on March 26.

“Today’s action is a show of confidence and trust, but we must remain cautious. People are losing their loved ones each day,” said Cooper. “We must keep up our guard. Many of us are weary, but we cannot let the weariness win. Now is the time to put our strength and resilience to work so that we can continue to turn the corner and get through this.”

“Keep wearing a mask, waiting 6 feet apart, and washing your hands. We’ve seen in the past how fragile progress can be, so we need to keep protecting each other while we get everyone a spot to get their shot,” said North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy K. Cohen, M.D.

Today’s Executive Order lifts the Modified Stay at Home Order requiring people to stay at home and businesses to close to the public between 10 pm and 5 am. The number of people who may gather indoors will increase from 10 to 25, while 50 remains the limit for outdoors.

The curfew on the sale of alcohol for onsite consumption will be moved from 9 pm to 11 pm.

Some businesses, including bars and amusement parks, will now be open for patrons indoors as they adhere to new occupancy restrictions. Many businesses, venues and arenas will have increased occupancy both indoors and outdoors.

Executive Order No. 195 has two general categories of occupancy restrictions: 30% capacity and 50% capacity. Because indoor spaces have a higher risk of spread for COVID-19, indoor facilities in the 30% occupancy category may not exceed two hundred fifty (250) people per indoor room or indoor space.

30% Capacity Limit

(may not exceed 250-persons in indoor spaces)


Meeting, Reception, and Conference Spaces

Lounges (including tobacco) and Night Clubs

Indoor areas of Amusement Parks

Movie Theatres

Entertainment facilities (e.g., bingo parlors, gaming establishments)

Sports Arenas and Fields*


*Indoor event venues with more than 5,000 seats may be exempted from the 250 person limit if they follow additional safety measures up to 15% capacity.

50% Capacity Limit


Breweries, Wineries, Distilleries

Fitness and Physical Activity Facilities (e.g., gyms, bowling alleys, rock climbing facilities)


Museums and Aquariums


Outdoor areas of Amusement Parks

Salons, Personal Care, Tattoo Parlors

As part of the new directive, spectators are allowed at sporting events, including youth, high school, collegiate, and professional (indoor and outdoor). At outdoor sporting events, the facility must limit spectators to 30% of the facility’s stated fire capacity or seven (7) guests for every 1,000 square feet. At indoor sporting events, the facility

must limit spectators to 30% of the stated fire capacity of each indoor room or space, with a maximum of 250 people allowed in each indoor room or space. Indoor sporting event venues with more than five thousand (5,000) seats may be exempted from the 250-person limit if they follow additional safety measures, but these facilities may not exceed fifteen percent (15%) of fire capacity.

The capacity limits for sporting events do not include the players, coaches, and game officials.

Face coverings are required at youth, high school, and amateur athletic events for those ages 5-and-over unless an

applicable exception applies.

Safety protocols such as masks, social distancing and frequent handwashing will continue to be important as people adjust to the new order, health officials said.

Dr. Cohen also provided an update on North Carolina’s data and trends.

North Carolina’s syndromic surveillance trend for COVID-like illness is decreasing, as are the number of cases, the percent of tests returning positive, and the trajectory of hospitalizations.


About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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