RALEIGH, n.c. (WTVD) -- Governor Roy Cooper on Tuesday delivered the much awaited news about easing restrictions that will allow gyms, indoor fitness centers, playgrounds and museums the opportunity to open amidst the pandemic.
The new executive order, which goes into effect on Friday at 5 p.m. and was announced during a COVID-19 briefing, effectively creates a Phase 2.5 that comes after many summer months of repeated extensions of Phase 2.
Bars, he announced, will remain closed.
During the news conference, the governor said he was pleased with how the trends and metrics have stabilized overall across the state, despite the recent rise in clusters on college campuses.
The governor also cited what he called new and emerging science showing that the new coronavirus doesn't spread as easily on surfaces and instead is more prone to spread by respiratory droplets.
Gyms and indoor fitness centers are permitted to operate at 30 percent capacity under the new order, paving the way for large chains and small studios alike to open with limitations.
Significantly, bowling alleys, which have endured legal challenges to open, can now open their doors because they are considered indoor fitness facilities.
Still, while this new executive order might be welcome news for people eager to work out and families excited to return to the playground, indoor entertainment venues like movie theaters, dance clubs and bars will remain closed.
Restaurants, as well, will not be permitted to add more customers, as capacity will remain restricted to 50 percent.
Museums, which have been closed since March, will be able to welcome half capacity.
The large gathering limit will increase to 50 from 25 outdoors.
As always, the governor stressed the importance of the 3 Ws -- wear a cloth mask over your nose and mouth, wait 6 feet apart and avoid close contact and wash your hands.
The new executive order enacting Phase 2.5 expires on Oct. 2.
On Monday, Gov. Cooper also extended the statewide alcohol curfew until at least next month.
The previous order was set to expire just hours after his announcement.
"North Carolina has made good progress stabilizing our COVID-19 numbers, and this order will help us continue it," said Cooper in a written statement. "Now is the time to continue staying cautious and vigilant as we work to beat this pandemic."
Zack Medford of the North Carolina Bar and Tavern Association wrote a letter to the governor Tuesday, pleading with him to change his mind about keeping bars closed.
"I'm begging you: We are out of money. We can't pay rent anymore. Most of us are living off credit cards at this point. We are at the end of our ropes," he wrote. "Please give us a fighting chance. Let us open with the same health protections and restrictions as the rest of the state's food and drinking establishments: limited capacity, limited hours, table-service-only, masks-required. Close down any of us who violate those rules."