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See the latest news and updates about COVID-19 and its impact on the Charlotte region, the Carolinas and beyond.

NC Imposes Statewide Curfew To Slow Spread Of Coronavirus As Hospital Capacity Could Be Threatened

Roy Cooper press conference
NC Department of Public Safety

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper has issued a modified stay-at-home order, requiring people in the state to stay home and businesses to close from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. each day, in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Additionally, all on-site alcohol sales have been ordered to stop at 9 p.m.

The order goes into effect Friday at 5 p.m., and will remain in place until Jan. 8.

Exemptions include traveling to and from work, obtaining food, medical care, or caring for a family member.

All other restrictions from North Carolina’s Phase 3 remain in place, including limiting mass gatherings to 10 people indoors, 50 people outdoors, and restaurants to operate at 50% capacity.

“We already have strong safety protocols and capacity limitations in place. With this additional action beginning Friday, we hope to get these numbers down,” Cooper said. “Our new modified stay-at-home order aims to limit gatherings and get people home where they are safer. It’s also a reminder that we must be vigilant the rest of the day.”

In the past week, North Carolina reported more than 6,000 coronavirus cases daily for the first time since the pandemic began. That milestone came just two days after the state reported 5,000 cases in a single day for the first time, as community spread of COVID-19 is accelerating throughout the country.

After the state reported more than 6,000 cases Saturday, Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen said “we are looking at what further actions we can take as a state to protect North Carolinians and save lives.” In a tweet, Cooper said, "Our actions right now are life or death."

A group of researchers in the Triangle area issued a report Tuesday saying that if no action is taken, North Carolina could run out of ICU beds in 4 1/2 weeks. The number of people hospitalized for COVID-19 in the state hit an all-time high Tuesday at 2,373; it was the sixth day in a row that number has been a new high.

"One of the reasons why we are taking action today is because we know hospital capacity is threatened here and we can do things to prevent that," Cooper said. "The study showed what would happen if we aren’t doing anything else. We are doing that something else today to try to affect that trajectory."

Cooper stressed that if COVID-19 numbers continue to worsen, further restrictions on restaurants and other businesses could be issued.

“Let me be clear: we will do more if our trends do not improve,” Cooper said.
“That means additional actions involving indoor restaurant dining, entertainment facilities or shopping and retail capacity. None of us wants that."

The newest restrictions come in the midst of the holiday season, with Hanukkah beginning Friday and Christmas less than three weeks away. Cohen said the state is just beginning to see the effects of Thanksgiving travel and gatherings among its increasing COVID-19 infections.

"We have a tough ask: Please avoid traveling and gathering this holiday season," Cohen said.

At the same time, the FDA is expected to issue emergency authorization for Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine later this week, and North Carolina anticipates receiving about 85,000 doses as early as Dec. 15. Hospital workers will be prioritized to be the first to receive the two-shot vaccine.