North Carolina, get ready to ease back into normal.

Governor Roy Cooper announced Tuesday afternoon that he will ease more COVID-19 restrictions, thanks to a decrease in hospitalizations, stabilizing case numbers, and a huge increase in the number of folks vaccinated. The new processes go into effect this Friday, March 26 at 5 p.m.

“These are significant changes, but they can be done safely,” Cooper tweeted. “We have said all along that the science and data would be our guide in this dimmer switch approach, and they show we can do this.”

Under the new executive order, some places will be able to open at 100 percent capacity, as long as folks continue to wear masks and social distance. These places include:

  • Museums and aquariums
  • Retailers
  • Salons, tattoo parlors, and other personal care places

Some places will be able to open at 75 percent capacity indoors, and 100 percent capacity outdoors (again, with masks and social distancing). These include:

  • Restaurants
  • Breweries and wineries
  • Gyms, pools, bowling alleys, and other fitness and recreation businesses
  • Amusement parks

Finally, some of the most restricted businesses and public spaces will be able to open at 50 percent capacity, indoors or outdoors, including:

  • Bars, clubs, hookah lounges, etc.
  • Movie theaters and gaming facilities (which can open at 75 percent outdoor capacity)
  • Music venues, auditoriums, and arenas (but you’ll have to stay seated)

The governor also announced that he will lift the state’s alcohol curfew, meaning bars, breweries, and the like will once again be able to stay open until 2 a.m. Customers still have to remain seated, though, so don’t be disappointed that you can’t dance on a table quite yet. To-go cocktails are also seeing their final days—the executive order that allowed them expires on March 31 at 5 p.m.

If you’re looking to expand your pod and get back to gatherings, you’re in luck: now you can hang out with up to 50 people indoors, and 100 people outdoors. Good thing the nice weather is on its way.

The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services says the state is showing progress. North Carolina’s positivity rate is hovering around five percent. The state’s hospitalization numbers have been decreasing since at least mid-February. Three in 10 adults have had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. Almost 19 percent of adults in the state are fully vaccinated.

Despite positive overall trends, the state’s COVID numbers still reveal race and ethnic disparities. Hispanic North Carolinians are still testing positive for COVID at a higher rate than non-Hispanic residents. Black folks are being hospitalized at a disproportionate rate based on total population. Vaccinations are mostly occurring among white North Carolinians, despite the fact that Black and brown people are more affected by the pandemic. Just a reminder that it’s good to help sign folks up for the vaccine, or help non-profits doing outreach in non-white communities.

Things may be returning to normal, but please keep washing your hands.

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