CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - North Carolina will remain “paused” in Phase 3 for the next three weeks, Gov. Roy Cooper announced in a press conference Wednesday, days before the state’s Phase 3 was set to expire.
Phase 3 is being extended “because several of our trends are moving in the wrong direction,” Cooper said. “These numbers are not where we want them to be.”
NCDHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen says the state’s trajectory of cases is up.
“The past two weeks we’ve seen an increase of COVID-19 clusters in social gatherings,” Cohen said, also mentioning clusters in church gatherings. At least 50 coronavirus cases were linked to a Charlotte church event over the weekend, marking Mecklenburg County’s single biggest outbreak, according to county officials.
North Carolina moved to Phase 3 of reopening at 5 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 2. The phase was set to 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.”
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.”
The following measures were to be followed under 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.
Cooper said, “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:
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 expected to be able to open inside during Phase 3. Many of them don’t have enough patio spaces to reopen.
Some bar owners called out Governor Cooper for a double standard in his policy making.
Venues like Bank of America stadium, which has a capacity of more than 75,000, were 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 expired 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.
Cooper announced that beginning on October 5, North Carolina elementary schools were able to open under “Plan A,” which allows all students and staff to return to school.
Schools are also still allowed the option of completely virtual learning, as laid out in N.C.'s “Plan C.”