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Cooper lifts curfew, eases gathering and occupancy limits

RALEIGH (AP) — With cases and other key metrics trending downward in North Carolina, Gov. Roy Cooper on announced on Feb. 24 that the state will ease gathering and occupancy restrictions and end its 10 p.m. statewide curfew starting Feb. 26.

For the first time since early in the coronavirus pandemic, Cooper is allowing bars and taverns to offer indoor service. His new executive order also increases alcohol sale cutoff times by two hours from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. and lets those businesses operate at 30 percent capacity up to 250 people. If they follow state health guidelines, such as mask wearing and physical distancing, night clubs, conference spaces, indoor amusement parks, movie theaters and sports and entertainment venues may also operate with the same capacity.

“Easing these restrictions will only work if we continue protecting ourselves and others from this deadly pandemic,” Cooper said at a news conference.

Larger sports venues able to seat over 5,000 people can host up to 15 percent of their fans, provided they adhere to additional safety restrictions. PNC Arena, which hosts Carolina Hurricanes hockey games in Raleigh, and the Spectrum Center, which is home to the Charlotte Hornets basketball team, would be able to let in about 3,000 people.

Shortly after the news, the Hurricanes announced the team will begin hosting fans for its March 4 game against the Detroit Red Wings.

Cooper’s directive goes into effect at 5 p.m. on Feb. 26 and expires at the same time on March 26. Restaurants, breweries, wineries, gyms, bowling alleys, swimming pools, museums, outdoor amusement park areas, hair salons and retailers are given a 50 percent capacity limit.

The governor’s directive also allows more people to congregate, boosting the indoor gathering limit from 10 to 25. Outdoor gatherings remain limited to 50 people.

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