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The Daily Tar Heel

Cooper says N.C. bars can open indoors, other COVID-19 restrictions eased

Fans look on as UNC plays Wake Forest in the Dean Smith Center Jan. 20, 2021. The Tar Heels beat the Demon Deacons 80-73.

For the first time since March, bars in North Carolina will be able to open indoors. Cooper announced this and an ease in many other COVID-19 restrictions at a Wednesday news briefing. 

Here are the new, eased restrictions: 

  • Bars and taverns will be able to open indoors at 30 percent capacity. Alcohol sales must stop at 11 p.m. 
  • There is no more 10 p.m. curfew.
  • Gyms, museums, aquariums, barbers, pools, outdoor amusement parks, retail establishments, restaurants, breweries and wineries can now open at 50 percent capacity with health and safety protocols. 
  • Sports fields and venues, stadiums, outdoor bars, outdoor amusement parks and other outdoor businesses still have a 30 percent outdoor capacity limit, but will no longer have a 100 person cap.
  • Indoor businesses like indoor amusement parks, movie theaters, indoor sports arenas and others will be able to open at 30 percent capacity with a cap of 250 people.
  • Larger indoor arenas with a capacity of more than 5000 people, including college and indoor sports arenas, will allow fans up to 15 percent capacity.  
  • In other circumstances not outlined above, the mass gathering limit will be 25 indoors and 50 outdoors. 
  • The state's mask requirement still remains

These eased restrictions will go into effect Friday with the expiration of the current  modified stay-at-home order.

Cooper said at the briefing that restrictions are able to be eased because North Carolina's COVID-19 trends have declined and stabilized. 

NCDHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen said at the briefing that N.C. is currently at a 6 or 7 percent positivity rate for COVID-19 tests, and the number is continuing to decrease – the state has a goal of a 5 percent positivity rate. There are currently 849,630 cases of COVID-19 in N.C., according to data from the NCDHHS. 

"Today’s action is a show of confidence and trust, but we must remain cautious," Cooper said. "People are losing their loved ones each day."

Cooper also said he will sign N.C. Senate Bill 37, which will require children in K-12 public schools to return to in-person learning, if legislators change the bill to follow NCDHHS guidance. Local school districts like Orange County Schools and Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools have said they will follow this guidance once the bill is passed.