Gov. Roy Cooper introduces “Phase 2.5,” effective Friday

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Gianna Holiday, Associate News Editor

Additional businesses can reopen at limited capacity on Friday under Gov. Roy Cooper’s Phase 2.5, the next stage of North Carolina’s coronavirus pandemic recovery effort. This new phase comes with strict guidelines and a more serious mask mandate. 

Cooper extended Phase 2 three times over the course of three months. While Cooper said the state is not ready for Phase 3, he said he feels comfortable allowing some businesses and social activities to resume at a reduced capacity. 

Phase 2.5 is effective Friday at 5 p.m.

“Because of our stable numbers, today we are ready to take a careful step forward.” Cooper said. “A new phase is exactly when we need to take this virus even more seriously.”

Under Phase 2.5, mass gathering limits will be raised from 10 to 25 people indoors and from 25 to 50 people outside.

Outdoor playgrounds can reopen and indoor playgrounds can operate at 30% capacity. Children older than 5 must wear a mask, which is a change from the previous mandate of 11 and older. 

“Every time you wear a mask or social distance, you are helping our numbers so that we can ease restrictions,”  Cooper said. “You’re protecting people, known and unknown. You’re saving lives and slowing the spread of this virus.”

Beginning Friday, gyms, bowling alleys, skating rinks and other indoor exercise facilities, which have been closed since March, can operate at 30% capacity.

Gyms reopening was originally part of Phase 2, but Cooper and other state officials decided to keep them closed over the potential spread of the virus in conditions where people are hot, sweaty, and in close proximity to one another. 

Cooper also extended the 11 p.m. curfew on alcohol sales at restaurants to Oct. 2.

Mandy Cohen, secretary of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, issued an order to allow outdoor visitation at nursing homes.

Nursing homes allowing visitations must not have a current outbreak. They also must have a clear testing plan and updated written Infection Control or Preparedness plan for COVID-19, and must have personal protective equipment.

Bars, nightclubs, movie theaters, indoor entertainment facilities and amusement parks will remain closed.