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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 To Move To 'Phase 2.5,' Allowing Gyms, Playgrounds, Museums To Open

NC Department of Public Safety

North Carolina will move into what Gov. Roy Cooper called "Phase 2.5" of coronavirus restrictions on Friday at 5 p.m., he announced Tuesday, allowing playgrounds, museums and gyms to open with capacity restrictions and increases in mass gatherings.

Bars and entertainment facilities such as movie theaters will remain closed in the new phase.

The easing of restrictions comes as coronavirus cases and hospitalizations have declined and stabilized for more than a month in North Carolina.

“We’re encouraged but cautious,” Cooper said. “Stability isn’t victory. The forest isn’t as thick, but we’re not out of the woods.”

Mass gathering limits will increase to 25 people indoors and 50 people outdoors; previously the limits were 10 people indoors and 25 people outdoors. Gyms and fitness centers, which have been closed since March, can open at 30% capacity under Cooper’s order. Additionally, museums and aquariums can open at 50% capacity.

Capacity at businesses such as restaurants and hair and nail salons remains the same.

North Carolina has been in some form of Phase 2 since May 22. This new Phase 2.5 lasts until at least Oct. 2.

"Moving to Phase 2.5 means we can safely do a few more things while still fighting the virus as vigorously as ever," Cooper said. "In fact, a new phase is exactly when we need to take this virus even more seriously."

On Monday, Cooper announced that he would extend the 11 p.m. curfew on alcohol sales in restaurants through Oct. 2.

[Related: What Exactly Is Phase 2.5 And How Does It Compare To Phase 2?]

Cooper's original Phase 3 plan allowed for increased capacities in restaurants and bars, businesses, entertainment facilities and public gatherings.

Under Cooper's new order, indoor exercise facilities that can now reopen at 30% capacity include: yoga studios, martial arts, rock climbing, bowling alleys, volleyball and other like facilities.

The list of places that must remain close includes: bars, nightclubs, movie theaters, indoor entertainment facilities, amusement parks and dance halls.

Additionally Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen issued an order allowing for outdoor visitation at nursing homes or skilled nursing facilities. To participate, the facility must meet several requirements, including not having a current outbreak, having a testing plan and having adequate protective equipment. That order also goes into effect Friday at 5 p.m.

Read the full executive order here.

Watch Cooper's news briefing below.

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