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Gov. Roy Cooper delivers a briefing on North Carolina’s coronavirus pandemic. Cooper said the COVID-19 vaccine doses will be free in North Carolina.

Gov. Roy Cooper has announced that several of the COVID-19 restrictions and limitations still in place under Phase 2 of the reopening plan in NC, will be lifted, including allowing gyms and parks to reopen across the state of North Carolina. The state will move into a “Safer at Home Phase 2.5” starting Friday evening.

“Playgrounds will be allowed to open. Museums and aquariums can open at 50 percent capacity,” Cooper said. “Gyms and other indoor exercise facilities can open at 30 percent capacity. The age requirement for mask wearing will include children down to age 5.”

Limits on mass gatherings will increase from 25 people indoors and 50 people indoors. (Read the Frequently Asked Questions from NC here.)

“Some places will remain closed including bars, nightclubs, movie theaters, indoor entertainment and amusement parks,” Cooper said. “Large venues will still be subject to the mass gathering limits. We know big gatherings are among the most dangerous settings for transmission of this deadly virus.”

Gyms and indoor exercise facilities – including bowling alleys – will be allowed to reopen at 30 percent.

“After a summer of hard work, we’ve seen North Carolina’s key indicators for COVID-19 remain stable, or even decrease in some instances,” Cooper said. “Our pause in Phase 2 was necessary as students returned to school and college campuses.”

Cooper announced the change Tuesday, even as the state announced one of its highest individual case-count days Monday, with 2,111 positive tests.

“As of today, we have 169,425 lab confirmed cases; 2,111 new cases reported since yesterday; 953 people in the hospital, and sadly 2,741 people who have died,” Cooper said. “Our thoughts are with all of those mourning a loved one.”

Mandy Cohen, Secretary of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, said that many of the metrics tracked by the state have stabilized or declining, and that the wearing of face coverings played a large part of those improvements.

Cohen said that while case numbers are still high, the number of people getting tested has lowered quite a bit and encouraged anyone that needs testing to get tested.

From the Governor’s Office:

Phase 2.5 means the following for North Carolina:

  • 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, such as yoga studios, martial arts, and rock climbing, as well as skating rinks, bowling alleys, indoor basketball, volleyball etc., may open at 30% capacity.
  • Bars, nightclubs, movie theaters, indoor entertainment facilities, amusement parks, dance halls will remain closed.
  • Large venues remain subject to the mass gathering limits.

Brandon Plotnick is a former sports journalist, now living in the digital space with interests all over the musical and pop culture map.