100-percent capacity allowed in some places under N.C. order, several COVID-19 restrictions eased

New executive order now in effect in N.C.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - North Carolina has majorly eased several COVID-19 restrictions, allowing for maximum capacity limits at some places under the current executive order.

Gov. Roy Cooper announced the new order which began for North Carolina at 5 p.m. Friday, March 26.

“Our sustained progress tell us we can move forward with easing restrictions if we do it safely,” Cooper said.

The 11 p.m. curfew for on-site alcohol consumption has been lifted.

Mass gathering limits are increased to 50 outdoors and 100 outdoors.

Under the new order, the following places are able to increase capacity up to 100-percent:

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

The following places are able to operate at 75-percent capacity indoors and 100-percent outdoors:

  • 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

These other places are able to increase capacity to 50-percent indoors and outdoors:

  • Bars
  • 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 (Movie theaters may operate at 75% capacity outdoors.)
  • Gaming Facilities (Gaming facilities may operate at 75% capacity outdoors.)
N.C. museums and family attractions widen capacity

The mask mandate and six-feet social distancing will remain in place. All businesses must continue to maintain the six feet of distance requirement between patrons and implement other safety protocols as they expand their capacity.


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Cooper lifted the Modified Stay at Home order last month. There is no longer a curfew and there are more opportunities to gather, shop and attend events.

Cooper said these newest actions were decided on “Given the significant and sustained improvement in our COVID-19 metrics.”

DOCUMENT: Click here to read Executive Order 195 in its entirety

Vaccine phases

Some North Carolina residents in Group 4 became eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine on March 17. Eligibility opened for those at high risk of severe illness and people living in certain congregate settings.

Gov. Cooper announced on March 25 that N.C. would be moving up the timeline to vaccinate the rest of Group 4 and Group 5. Starting on March 31, COVID-19 vaccination eligibility will open to everyone in Group 4 who was not already eligible.

On April 7, all residents in North Carolina age 16 and older will be eligible to receive the vaccine.

The rest of Group 4 includes essential workers in commercial services such as hospitality and retail, chemical and pharmaceutical facilities, construction, housing and real estate and other essential sectors.

“We’ve heard from providers who really want to go ahead and start opening this up,” said Cooper during the announcement.


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Cooper says hospitalizations are dropping and we’re seeing improvement in our COVID-19 numbers. As of Tuesday, March 23, Cooper said the state had administered 4.1 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Group 4 members eligible starting March 31:

  • Those working in the essential sectors identified in Group 3 who did not meet the criteria for frontline. Essential sectors identified in Group 3 include critical manufacturing, education, essential goods, food and agriculture, government and community services, health care and public health, public safety and transportation. See Deeper Dive Group 3.
  • Those working in additional essential sectors as defined below.
  • Chemical (including workers in petrochemical plants, agricultural chemicals, pharmaceutical facilities, consumer products)
  • Commercial facilities (including retail workers, hotel workers)
  • Communications and information technology (service repair dispatchers, data center operators)
  • Defense industrial base (including workers supporting essential services to meet national security commitments)
  • Energy (including electric, petroleum, natural and propane gas workers)
  • Financial services (including workers who maintain systems for processing financial transactions, workers needed to provide consumer access to banking and lending services)
  • Hazardous materials (including nuclear facilities workers, workers managing medical waste)
  • Hygiene products and services (including laundromats, sanitation workers)
  • Public works and infrastructure support services (including plumbers, electricians, exterminators, workers supporting parks)
  • Residential facilities, housing and real estate
  • Water and wastewater (including staff at water authorities, wastewater treatment facilities, water sampling and monitoring)
  • OTHER PEOPLE LIVING IN GROUP LIVING SETTINGS - This population includes students living in dormitories or other group living settings (e.g., fraternity or sorority houses), who are not already vaccinated due to age, medical condition or job function.

The full Group 4 includes anyone 16-64 years old with one or more high-risk medical conditions for severe disease from COVID-19, people living in close group settings and essential workers who are not yet vaccinated.

Group 5 members eligible April 7:

  • Anyone age 16 or older.

Group 4 members who were eligible as of March 17:

  • People with medical conditions that put them at higher-risk for severe COVID-19 illness.
  • People living in some congregate settings that increase risk of exposure to COVID-19.

The March 17 members of Group 4 includes anyone with conditions that have been identified by the CDC as increasing risk for severe COVID-19 illness:

    • Asthma (moderate to severe)
    • Cancer
    • Cerebrovascular disease or history of stroke
    • Chronic kidney disease
    • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
    • Cystic fibrosis
    • Diabetes type 1 or 2
    • A heart condition such as heart failure, coronary artery disease, cardiomyopathy
    • Hypertension or high blood pressure
    • Immunocompromised state (weakened immune system) from: immune deficiencies, HIV, taking chronic steroids or other immune weakening medicines, history of solid organ blood or bone marrow transplant
    • Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, including Down Syndrome
    • Liver disease, including hepatitis
    • Neurologic conditions, such as dementia and schizophrenia
    • Pulmonary fibrosis
    • Overweight or obesity
    • Pregnancy
    • Sickle cell disease (not including sickle cell trait) or thalassemia
    • Smoking (current or former, defined as having smoked at least 100 cigarettes in their lifetime)

The March 17 members of Group 4 also include people living in a close group or congregate setting who is not already vaccinated due to age, medical condition or job function, including:

    • People experiencing homelessness or living in a homeless shelter
    • Correctional facility, such as jail or prison
NC Moving up some Group 4 vaccinations

Other groups already being vaccinated

Frontline essential workers in North Carolina became eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine on March 3.

Frontline workers were originally scheduled to be eligible on March 10, following teachers, school staff and daycare employees.

Educators, school staff, childcare providers in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade became eligible to receive the vaccine on Feb. 24.

Cooper said that frontline healthcare workers, those 65 and older and staff and residents at long-term living facilities will still continue to receive the vaccine.

In-person school reopening bill

Local school districts are making decisions on the next steps on the heels of Cooper and state lawmakers reaching an agreement on the in-person school reopening bill.

The bill, which was signed into law on March 11, requires all elementary school students to operate under Plan A, full in-person learning. Middle and high schools would have the option to operate under Plan A or Plan B.

The governor does have authority to order a closure, restriction or reduction of operations within schools but must only do so on a district-by-district basis.

Any districts that plan to move middle and high school to Plan A must notify the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services beforehand and describe their plan for moving to the plan. The purpose is to provide consultation. NCDHHS will not have the authority to veto this.

Several districts, including Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, have already in-person learning changes.

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