Gyms, museums, playgrounds to reopen under NC’s Phase 2.5, Cooper says

Mass gathering limits also increase under the modified reopening, which goes into effect on Friday.
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Beginning Friday at 5 p.m., more businesses will be allowed to reopen under North Carolina’s Safer at Home Phase 2.5.

Governor Roy Cooper announced Tuesday the state is continuing its “dimmer-switch approach” of easing business restrictions and mass gathering requirements in place to limit community spread of the coronavirus.

“We can do this safely only if we keep doing what we know works — wearing masks and social distancing,” Cooper said during the press briefing. “In fact, a new phase is exactly when we need to take this virus even more seriously.”

N.C. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen shared an update on North Carolina’s data trends. Hospitalizations and Covid-like cases have declined while lab-confirmed cases and positive test rates are stable. Although the numbers are moving in the right direction, Cohen says they remain high.

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What changes in Phase 2.5?

Under Executive Order 163:

  • Mass gathering limits will increase to 25 people indoors and 50 people outdoors from the current limit of 10 indoors and 25 outdoors. 
  • Playgrounds may open. 
  • Museums and aquariums may open at 50% capacity. 
  • Gyms and indoor exercise facilities can open at 30%. Facilities include yoga studios, martial arts, and rock climbing, as well as skating rinks, bowling alleys, indoor basketball, volleyball, etc. 
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Gyms and fitness centers have been closed since Phase 1 in March. When asked how officials decided to reopen the facilities at 30%, N.C. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen said officials “wanted to be more restrictive” than with restaurants or retail because gyms and fitness centers are places with a higher likelihood for the virus to spread.

James “Jamie” Scott, owns Jamie Scott Fitness in South End and Columbia, South Carolina. South Carolina has allowed gyms to operate at a reduced capacity since May. Scott has offered outdoor and virtual classes while his Charlotte gym was closed.

“We’re elated that we have the opportunity to reopen and to start reclaiming our livelihoods,” he said in reaction to Cooper’s announcement.

What doesn’t change in Phase 2.5?

  • Bars, nightclubs, movie theaters, indoor entertainment facilities, amusement parks and dance halls will remain closed.
  • Large venues remain subject to the mass gathering limits.
  • Capacity limits at restaurants and personal care businesses, like hair and nail salons, will stay the same.

Cooper signed Executive Order 162 on Monday, extending the 11 p.m. curfew on alcohol sales in restaurants through Oct. 2, the same day Phase 2.5 is set to expire.

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. through Sept. 22.

“It’s important to remember that moving forward doesn’t mean letting up on slowing the spread of the virus,” Cohen said.

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