Gyms, health clubs, bowling alleys, and other exercise facilities may reopen at 30 percent capacity at 5 p.m. Friday, as North Carolina moves into what Governor Roy Cooper called at a briefing today Phase 2.5 of the state’s reopening.

Museums and aquariums, which, like the fitness facilities, have been closed since March, may reopen at 50 percent capacity, the Governor announced this afternoon, while “entertainment facilities,” such as bars, night clubs, movie theaters, amusement parks, and gaming establishments will remain closed.

Playgrounds may resume full operation.

The Governor also liberalized the maximum attendee capacity for indoor and outdoor “mass gatherings,” increasing the former from 10 to 25 persons and the latter from 25 to 50 persons.

All of the new regulations—which also include requiring children as young as 5 years old to wear face coverings—are detailed in the Governor’s Executive Order 163. Previously, the face covering mandate applied only to children over age 11. Capacity is defined as “stated fire capacity.”

The new Executive Order remains in effect until 5 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 2, unless it is rescinded or otherwise modified.

Click to access EO163-New-Phase-2.5.pdf


For FAQs about the new Executive Order, see https://www.nc.gov/covid-19/staying-ahead-curve/phase-25-faqs.

Yesterday Governor Cooper extended until Oct. 2 the so-called alcohol curfew, which requires restaurants, convenience stores, and other businesses to stop selling at 11 p.m. alcoholic beverages to be consumed on their premises. Sales may resume at 7 a.m.

On Aug. 5, the Governor said that the existing Phase 2 regulations would remain in place until 5 p.m. on Sept. 11. In easing restrictions a week early, Mr. Cooper cited the continued stability of statewide COVID-19 metrics, such as the number of new cases and the number of hospitalizations daily, but also noted that they still remain elevated.

“We’re encouraged,” he said, “but cautious.

“The forest isn’t as thick,” the Governor elaborated, “but we’re not out of the woods.”

Dr. Mandy Cohen, Secretary of the N.C. Dept. of Health and Human Services,” echoed the Governor’s caution as she updated the metrics, calling attention to the fact that the “positivity rate”—the percentage of positive test results in a daily batch of completed tests—is still above her 5 percent target. She also said that new cases “remain at a level that is too high.”

New N.C. cases reported today on the NCDHHS dashboard totaled 2,111. Yesterday’s dashboard total was 1,186, but case reports after a weekend are typically lower.

On Saturday, because of a backlog of case reports, a record-high 2,585 cases were registered. Subsequently, however, the NCDHHS dialed back the number of these cases to 1,699, citing an error.

Today’s dashboard shows 169,424 positive test results statewide, out of 2,295,698 completed tests, and 2,741 deaths since the COVID-19 crisis began.

Dr. Cohen characterized the past six months of living with COVID-19 as “difficult” and said that “the unfortunate truth is that this pandemic is not yet over.”

Both the Governor and the Secretary encouraged people to continue to wear face coverings and to observe social distancing and other infection-control measures, such as hand washing. Dr. Cohen urged people to get a flu vaccine this fall.

Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 9/1/20

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