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The Daily Tar Heel

Orange County maintains mass gathering limit despite Cooper's phase 2.5 announcement

Gov. Roy Cooper announced Friday that NC's public schools would continue remote instruction through the end of the school year, following an announcement that he would be extending the state's stay-at-home order through May 8.

Update: Orange County will updated its state of emergency declaration in response to Gov. Roy Cooper's Tuesday decision to move the state into phase 2.5. 

The county's update will comply with the statewide order to:

  • Allow gyms to open at 30 percent capacity, museums and aquariums to open at 50 percent capacity and playgrounds to open.
  • Allow restaurants to sell alcohol until an 11:00 p.m. statewide curfew. 

Previously, the county had banned alcohol sales after 10 p.m.

However, mass gatherings in Chapel Hill, Carrboro and Orange County will still be limited at 10 people indoors and 25 people outdoors. This is in contrast to the new statewide guidance that will allow indoor gatherings of up to 25 people and outdoor gatherings of up to 50 people.

Board of County Commissioners Chairperson Penny Rich said this is because of a high COVID-19 positivity rate in the county due to many UNC students returning to the area. 

"Our last positive percent rate was at 10.1 percent in Orange County," she said. "It's very, very high. It's higher than most of the state right now."

She said the county could consider raising the limit on mass gatherings if the positivity rate falls to 5 percent.

The county's order will go into effect Friday at 5 p.m. and remain in place until Oct. 31.

North Carolina will be moving into "phase 2.5" of the state's "safer-at-home" order Friday at 5 p.m., Gov. Roy Cooper announced in a Tuesday briefing. 

This order eases statewide restrictions to allow: 

  • Gyms and indoor exercise facilities to open at 30 percent capacity
  • Museums, aquariums and playgrounds to open at 50 percent capacity
  • Mass gatherings of 25 people indoors and 50 people outdoors

Capacity limits at restaurants and personal care businesses like hair and nail salons will remain at 50 percent. But bars, nightclubs, movie theaters, indoor entertainment venues and amusement parks, which Cooper called large venues, will remain closed. 

"We know big gatherings are among the most dangerous settings for transmission of this deadly virus," Cooper said at the briefing. 

This phase wasn't included in the governor's initial reopening plan from the early days of the pandemic. He suggested the state still isn't ready to move into phase 3 due to the risks of allowing mass gatherings.

"Moving to phase 2.5 means that we can safely do a few more things while still fighting the virus as vigorously as ever," Cooper said. "In fact, a new phase is exactly when we need to take this virus even more seriously." 

The announcement comes after Cooper said on Monday that the 11 p.m. statewide curfew on alcohol sales at restaurants would continue to Oct. 2. 

In Orange County, alcohol sales at restaurants are banned after 10 p.m. until Oct. 31. 

Cooper said although colleges across the state have opened campuses and seen outbreaks, North Carolina's COVID-19 numbers have remained stable.

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"We’re encouraged to see North Carolina holding steady on most and decreasing on some of our key data metrics," he said. 

As of Tuesday, N.C. has had almost 170,000 laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 cases and about 2,700 deaths, according to data from the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services. 


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