Governor Roy Cooper announced on Tuesday that North Carolina will enter the next phase of reopening, dubbed “Phase 2.5,” starting Friday at 5 p.m.
The plan increases the limit on indoor gatherings from 10 to 25 people and shifts the number of attendees for outdoor gatherings from 25 to 50 people. Under “Phase 2.5,” playgrounds may reopen, and so can museums and aquariums, albeit with a 50% capacity.
BREAKING: North Carolina will move into Safer at Home Phase 2.5 beginning this Friday at 5 pm.
➡️ Mass gathering limits will increase to 25 ppl indoors and 50 ppl outdoors
➡️ Playgrounds can reopen
➡️ Museums/aquariums can open at 50% capacity
➡️ Gyms can open at 30% capacity
— WUNC (@wunc) September 1, 2020
Bars, night clubs, movie theaters, indoor entertainment, and amusement parks are not yet permitted to reopen under this new plan. “Phase 2.5” does not include any new changes for restaurants, and hair or nail salon capacity.
Gyms, which have also been closed since March, can now open their doors but must limit clients to 30% capacity. Some fitness chains had already announced they are reopening through an exception to serve customers with medical needs to exercise, news outlets reported earlier this week.
"Just because we're easing restrictions on gyms, doesn't mean that's the right choice for everyone. We know that more than half the adults in North Carolina have a chronic illness that puts them at higher risk for COVID-19," said N.C. Health Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen in announcing the change.
This new phase will also allow for outdoor visits with residents in skilled nursing facilities.
State officials continue to encourage mask-wearing, and the age requirement for mandatory mask-wearing will now include children as young as 5.
In announcing the plan, Cooper pointed to the latest COVID-19 numbers for the state.
"After a summer of hard work, we've seen North Carolina's key indicators for COVID-19 remain stable or even decrease in some cases. Our pause for Phase 3 was necessary,” said Cooper.
According to Cohen, there was an increase in lab-confirmed cases in early to mid-August when schools reopened, but the case numbers have remained stable overall. Cohen said hospitalization numbers have been on the decline since they peaked in late July.
She added that there is an average two-day turnaround period for coronavirus test results in the state, however, fewer people are getting tested for the virus.
Cooper announced on Monday his order requiring restaurants to stop serving alcohol at 11 p.m. has been extended until Oct. 2. That order has been in effect since July.
The state has suffered some recent COVID-19 setbacks, as the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and N.C. State University reverted to online classes only after many cases clusters involving students. The two schools had more than 600 combined new cases last week.