Cooper eases restrictions beginning Friday

North Carolina moves another step closer to fully reopening as the number of people who may gather increases and alcohol curfews are lifted.

Video Transcript

ROY COOPER: Thanks, Dr. Cohen. It's great to see that almost every school has returned to in-person instruction. And we know how much children benefit mentally and physically from safely being in the classroom.

Another cause for optimism is North Carolina's success with our vaccine distribution. As of today, you heard Dr. Cohen tell you, we've administered more than 4.1 million doses. That means almost a third of adults have received at least one dose. And 18.8% are fully vaccinated.

Our vaccine equity efforts remain a priority, along with speed. And we're continuing to vaccinate people in a way that's fast and fair. I want to express my gratitude to our hard working vaccine providers. Every shot in an arm gets us a little closer to turning the corner on this pandemic.

Our fast and fair vaccine distribution and our sustained progress with COVID-19 metrics tell us we can move forward with easing restrictions if we do it safely. Today, I'm signing an executive order that will continue to ease restrictions in several areas starting this Friday, March, 26. Strong safety protocols, including the mask mandate, will remain in place. It'll be as important as ever to stay socially distant and use good judgment.

This virus and its more contagious variants are still spreading. And we may need to be even 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.

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

So here are the main changes, some places will be able to increase capacity up to 100% indoors and outdoors with safety protocols in place. They include museums, aquariums, retail businesses and shops, salons and personal care shops. The new order will allow some places to increase capacity up to 75% indoors and up to 100% outdoors. They include restaurants, breweries, wineries, amusement parks, gyms and pools, and other recreation establishments.

Additionally, the new order will allow some places to increase capacity up to 50% indoors and outdoors, that includes bars, conference centers, and reception venues, sports arenas, and other venues for live performances. In addition, effective Friday, we will fully lift the 11:00 PM curfew for on site alcohol consumption. And finally, the mass gathering limit, which covers other kinds of gatherings that are not laid out in the order, will be increased to 50 indoors and 100 outdoors.

These are significant changes, but they can be done safely. We've said all along that the science and the data would be our guide in this dimmer switch approach. And they show we can do this.

North Carolina has done the work to slow the spread of this virus and get people vaccinated. And I'm grateful for the efforts of people across the state. But I emphasize this, this pandemic is not over yet. We're only able to keep this virus in check while we ease restrictions if people act responsibly and follow safety protocols, that means continuing to wear a mask and social distancing.

We want to strengthen our economy while keeping people safe. And it's on all of us to make that happen. The last thing we want is to backslide.

Spring has brought sunnier days and the continued hope and belief that we will move past this pandemic. Our students are in the classrooms. People are getting vaccinated. And our COVID-19 numbers remain promising.

But for us to truly turn the corner and leave this pandemic behind, we have to stay strong to the very end. We have to continue keeping ourselves and each other safe, that way we'll be able to move forward once and for all into a stronger and healthier future.