North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper said Tuesday afternoon (March 23rd) that he is further easing COVID-19 restrictions that include increasing the maximum occupancy at many businesses and at large gatherings as well as those for entertainment and sports events including high school ball games. The changes take effect this Friday.
"Please understand this does not mean the pandemic is over," Cooper said. We may need to be even more careful now as we venture out into public. Strong safety protocols, including the mask mandate, will remain in place. It will be as important as ever to stay socially distant and use good judgment."
Museums, aquariums, retail businesses, barbers/salons and other personal care shops can open at 100% capacity.
Restaurants, breweries and wineries, amusement parts and gyms, and pools can now have 75 % capacity.
Bars, sports arenas and other live performance venues can operate at 50% capacity.
Masks and 6-feet of social distancing will still be required, and Cooper said that means some of them may not be able to reach the maximum occupancy allowed by the order.
Also dffective Friday, the 11 PM curfew for on-site alcohol consumption will be lifted.
The mass gathering limit, which covers gatherings not otherwise spelled out in the order, can now have up to 50 people indoors and 100 outdoors.
If we did our math correctly, the change means that instead of 1620 fans, East Lincoln can accommodate 2520 fans for their Homecoming game vs Maiden on Friday. We'll update that info (and correct it if necessary) on Wednesday.
Cooper's announcement had been expected because the number of new cases of the virus in NC has reached a plateau around a thousand per day and hospitalizations have fallen to just under a thousand. Health experts have warned that discontinuing the 3Ws will likely lead to a surge in new cases even as more people are getting vaccinated against the virus.
"This virus and its more contagious variants are still spreading, and we may even need to be more careful as we ease restrictions in that we will likely come into contact with more people when we leave our homes and go into public places," Cooper said.
Dr. Mandy Cohen, Secretary of NCDHHS, said 18.8% of North Carolina adults are now fully vaccinated, 31.7% have had at least one shot of the two-dose varieties. The state recorded 18 more deaths from the virus Tuesday, bringing the death toll in the last year to 11,854. The state's daily percentage of positive tests is on the rise again. It was 6.3% Tuesday.
In Gaston County, hospitalizations have increased in the last several days. 30 people were hospitalized with COVID Tuesday, three of them on a ventilator. Catawba County had 15 people hospitalized with the virus. 407 people in Gaston and 293 in Catawba have now died from the disease. Cleveland County had eight residents hospitalized and 126 known active cases. 218 people there have died from the virus. Lincoln County reported 85 known active cases Tuesday. The county has had 83 deaths.
If you still need to get vaccinated, the Lincoln County Health Department will be holding a first shot clinic for those in groups 1-3 this Thursday and Friday. To book an appointment, visit https://app.acuityscheduling.com/schedule.php?owner=21725268&appointmentType=21354100.
The Cleveland County Health Department still had some appointments available this week. Call 980-484-6019 Monday – Friday 8-5. Appointments were also still available for a drive-up vaccination clinic by Kintegra Health scheduled for Friday 9 -3 at the Alexis Fire Department on Highway 27 in Alexis. To make an appointment or for info on other Kintegra vaccination clinics, visit https://www.kintegra.org/covid-19-vaccination-event-schedule/.