Gov. Roy Cooper announces “Phase 2.5” to take effect Sept. 4

11 p.m. alcohol sales curfew extended to Oct. 2

Gov. Roy Cooper updates the public on the COVID-19 virus during a press briefing at the Emergency Operations Center on Wednesday, June 24, 2020 in Raleigh, N.C. Photo via NC Dept. of Public Safety

RALEIGH – Gov. Roy Cooper announced on Tuesday that some restrictions would be lifted at the end of the week as the state moves to “Phase 2.5.”

Among the changes in the new “Phase 2.5” include slightly increasing mass gathering limits, indoor limits move from 10 to 25 people allowed, and outdoor limits move from 25 to 50.

Playgrounds, museums, and gyms are now able to open with strict measures in place, although gyms are restricted to open at only 30% capacity. However, bars, night clubs, movie theaters, indoor entertainment venues, and amusement parks are all ordered to remain closed.

Worship, religious, and spiritual gatherings, funeral ceremonies, wedding ceremonies, and other activities constituting the exercise of First Amendment rights are exempt from all the requirements of this Executive Order.

“Safer at Home Phase 2.5 continues our state’s dimmer switch approach to easing some restrictions,” said Gov. Cooper. “We can do this safely only if we keep doing what we know works — wearing masks and social distancing. In fact, a new phase is exactly when we need to take this virus even more seriously.”

Included in the new half phase is the statewide public mask requirement now applies to all children ages 5 and up. In the mask mandate executive order, only children ages 11 and up were singled out as required to wear a mask at camps or childcare facilities.

The full details of “Phase 2.5” which lasts until Oct. 2 are contained in executive order 163.

N.C. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen said, “As we take modest steps forward today, it’s important to remember that moving forward doesn’t mean letting up on slowing the spread of the virus. Our progress is fragile and we need to maintain focus on the 3Ws especially as we head into flu season.”

In addition, Cohen issued a secretarial order allowing for outdoor visitation at nursing homes or skilled nursing facilities. To participate, nursing homes must meet several requirements, including, but not limited to, not having a current outbreak, having a testing plan and updated written Infection Control or Preparedness plan for COVID-19, and having adequate personal protective equipment.

The secretarial order is effective as of Sept. 4 at 5 p.m. and remains in effect through Sept. 22, 2020.

Cohen’s remarks were accompanied by a series of slides, showing all major COVID-19 metrics for the last 14 days as either stable or declining.

Lt. Gov. Dan Forest blasted the latest move, asking whether Cooper’s “Phase 2.5” decision is “based on science or politics?”

“The science has shown for months that gyms, playgrounds and bowling alleys are safe. It must be the politics and polling that is changing with this new decision. The same holds true for other businesses and for schools. Other states have their businesses and schools open. It’s time for fear and panic to be replaced with hope and opportunity. It’s time for Gov. Cooper to actually protect the most vulnerable and give North Carolinians their freedoms and livelihoods back,” said Forest.