North Carolina moves into Phase 3 of reopening

Updated: Oct. 2, 2020 at 4:59 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - North Carolina has moved to Phase 3 of reopening

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said this next phase of the state’s reopening process was to begin Friday, Oct. 2 at 5 p.m. and last through Friday, Oct. 23.

“The virus continues to spread, so we must take the next steps methodically and responsibly,” Cooper said, “And we must rely on North Carolinians taking personal responsibility to protect others by wearing masks and keeping their social distance.”

WATCH LIVE | Gov. Cooper is discussing next steps days before North Carolina’s Phase 2.5 expires

WATCH LIVE | N.C. COVID-19: Gov. Cooper is discussing next steps days before North Carolina’s Phase 2.5 expires. Bars and theaters are among businesses anxiously waiting to learn whether they’ll be able to open their doors again »

Posted by WBTV News on Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Cooper said that during Phase 3, the at-risk population is “still safer at home.” He urged anyone over 65 - and those with health risks - to take “responsibility in your choices.”

Here’s what will change and what will stay the same in Phase 3:

  • Face coverings are still mandatory for everybody over the age of 5.
  • Large outdoor venues with seating greater than 10,000 may operate with 7% occupancy for spectators with other safety protocols.
  • Smaller outdoor entertainment venues may operate outdoors at 30% of outdoor capacity or 100 guests, whichever is less.
  • Movie theaters and conference centers may open indoor spaces to 30% of capacity, or 100 seated guests, whichever is less.
  • Bars may operate outdoors only at 30% of outdoor capacity, or 100 guests, whichever is less.
  • Outdoor amusement parks may open at 30% occupancy.
  • The limits on mass gatherings will remain at 25 people indoors and 50 people outdoors.
  • The 11 p.m. curfew on alcohol sales for in-person consumption in locations such as restaurants and outdoor bars will be extended.

“I believe that North Carolina can do this safely. But so I am clear, every gathering carries the risk of spreading this disease," Cooper said. "Being safe means being smart and making sure others around you are doing the same.”

Cooper continued, “Until we have a vaccine or a reliable cure, precautions like the 3 W’s are with us for a while. Our children can go back to school and our economy can fully rebuild when we’re safe, and people have confidence that they can stay healthy. Every careful step we make forward, and every time we wear a mask and keep our distance, we are helping to keep this disease at bay, and building a stronger North Carolina.”

Read the entire Phase 3 Executive Order below:


Gov. Roy Cooper announced last week that outdoor event venues could open at 7% capacity starting Friday, Oct. 2, as well as hinting that the state planned to take another step toward Phase 3.

“Because of our continued stability, we plan to take another step toward Phase 3 in the coming days, if our progress holds,” Cooper said.

Several businesses were anxious for Phase 3, hoping they’ll finally be able to open their doors nearly seven months after they first closed. The list of closed businesses include movie theaters, event venues, theaters, concert venues and bars.

Bar owners tell WBTV News they were expecting to be able to open inside during Phase 3. Many of them don’t have enough patio spaces to reopen, which means they will go another month closed.

Some bar owners are calling out Governor Cooper for a double standard in his policy making.

“We should be able to operate as equally as restaurants, non-profit bars, breweries, wineries, country clubs, strip clubs. We can do it better than anyone else," said Michaele Laria, who co-owns Jeff’s Bucket Shop.

They say if people can drink as much as they like indoors at those other businesses, what’s the difference a bar makes?

“We’ve done nothing to contribute to the coronavirus, but the responsibility has fallen on our shoulders every minute every day, keeping us financially, emotionally, and physically down," Laria said. "Enough is enough. Give us a break.”

She estimates more than 50% of bars in Charlotte still won’t be able to open because they don’t have an outdoor space to do so.

“We will continue analyzing our data and indicators as we determine how to move forward safely in other areas that may be included in the new order on October 2nd. In it, we hope to ease some other restrictions, while still keeping safety protocols like masks, social distancing, and mass gathering limits in place,” Cooper said.

Venues like Bank of America stadium, which has a capacity of more than 75,000, would be included in the event venues permitted to open at the reduced capacity. Large entertainment venues are those that can seat over 10,000.

“We are excited to welcome some fans back to Bank of America Stadium beginning Oct. 4,” the Carolina Panthers said in a statement. “We have worked for months to develop and implement a responsible and comprehensive plan for the return of fans and we are confident that it will ensure that the game day experience is enjoyable and as safe as possible.”

Panthers officials say they will continue to follow guidelines provided by the CDC and local and state government, as well as the National Football League.

“With more things open and people moving around more, we need everyone to stay vigilant about wearing a mask, waiting six feet apart, and washing their hands often,” said Secretary Mandy Cohen. “Our progress is fragile and will take our continued hard to work to protect it.”

On September 4 at 5 p.m., the state moved into Phase 2.5. The phase is set to expire at 5 p.m. on October 2. The phase allowed gyms and several other establishments to reopen, while loosening restrictions at places that were already operating. Gov. Roy Cooper cited stable coronavirus numbers as the reason the state moved into Phase 2.5.

Mass gathering limits increased to 25 people indoors and 50 people outdoors under Phase 2.5. Gyms and indoor exercise facilities, such as yoga studios, martial arts, and rock climbing, as well as skating rinks, bowling alleys, indoor basketball, volleyball etc., were able to open at 30 percent capacity.

Playgrounds were also allowed to reopen, but the age requirement for mask wearing includes children down to age 5.

Museums and aquariums were able to open at 50 percent capacity. Movie theaters remained closed under Phase 2.5. North Carolina’s statewide curfew that bans restaurants from selling alcoholic drinks between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. was extended until Oct. 2.

In addition, NCDHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen issued a Secretarial Order allowing for outdoor visitation at nursing homes or skilled nursing facilities, which was set to expire Tuesday, September 22.

To participate, nursing homes had to meet several requirements, including, but not limited, not having a current outbreak, having a testing plan and updated written Infection Control or Preparedness plan for COVID-19, and having adequate personal protective equipment.

Some schools also saw change, with the option to operate under full in-person learning.

Cooper announced that beginning on October 5, North Carolina elementary schools will be able to open under “Plan A,” which allows all students and staff to return to school.

“We are able to open this option because most North Carolinians have doubled down on our safety and prevention measures and stabilized our numbers,” Cooper said. “The science of lower viral spread among younger children also backs up this decision.”

Symptom screenings and health attestations will still be required for use of school transportation under this plan. Grades 6-12 will still be required to operate under the “Plan B” approach, which lets students participate in a mix of in-classroom and remote learning.

Schools are also still allowed the option of completely virtual learning, as laid out in N.C.'s “Plan C.”

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