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North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper along with NC Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen, speak at a news conference to give COVID-19 updates for the state.

With the impacts of the coronavirus starting to improve around North Carolina, Gov. Roy Cooper announced a new executive order easing many of the COVID-19 restrictions placed on businesses across North Carolina.

Beginning Friday, March 26 at 5 p.m., most retail businesses and shops, barber shops and beauty salons, and others can return to 100 percent occupancy, but only as much as social distancing mandates will allow. Also in the new order, higher capacity businesses like bars, sports arenas, conference centers and others, can increase capacity to 50 percent as much as social distancing mandates will allow.

“Here are the main changes: Some places will be able to increase capacity up to 100% indoors and outdoors with safety protocols in place,” Cooper said of the COVID-19 restrictions. “They include museums, aquariums, retail businesses and shops, salons and personal care shops.”

While the Governor encouraged businesses to safely operate, he did caution that there is still much to do to stay safe.

“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. “This order will increase maximum occupancy limits in several areas. But importantly, masks and 6 feet of social distancing still will be required for all of these establishments, and that means some of them may not be able to reach the maximum occupancy allowed by the order.”

Restaurants, breweries, wineries, amusement parks, gyms and pools, and other recreation establishments are now allowed to have 75 percent indoor capacity, and 100 percent outdoor capacity. They must still meet the mass gathering limits, however, which have been increased to 50 people indoors and 100 outdoors. The alcohol curfew that had been in place has been completely removed as well.

From the Governor’s Office:

Indoors and Outdoors up to 100% Capacity, Subject to Masks and 6 ft. Social Distancing 

  • Museums and Aquariums
  • Retail Businesses
  • Salons, personal care and grooming businesses, tattoo parlors

Indoors up to 75% and Outdoors up to 100% Capacity, Subject to Masks and 6 ft. Social Distancing 

  • Restaurants
  • Breweries, Wineries, and Distilleries
  • Recreation (e.g., bowling, skating, rock climbing)
  • Fitness and Physical Activity Facilities (e.g., gyms, yoga studios, fitness centers)
  • Pools
  • Amusement Parks

Indoors and Outdoors up to 50% Capacity, Subject to Masks and 6 ft. Social Distancing 

  • Bars
  • Movie Theaters*
  • Gaming Facilities*
  • Meeting, Reception, and Conference Spaces
  • Lounges (including tobacco) and Night Clubs
  • Auditoriums, Arenas, and other venues for live performances
  • Sports Arenas and Fields (includes professional, collegiate, and amateur

*Movie theaters and gaming facilities may operate at up to 75% capacity outdoors.

Brandon Plotnick is a former sports journalist, now living in the digital space with interests all over the musical and pop culture map.