North Carolina’s reopening plan


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Table of Contents

As of Friday, October 2, NC has entered Phase 3 of the three-phase plan to lift current stay-at-home restrictions. Click here for a breakdown of Phase 3 from the NCDHHS.

What is the difference between the phases, exactly?

Phase 1


○ The distinction between essential and non-essential businesses will be removed.
○ Bars, personal care businesses (like hair and nail salons), entertainment venues + gyms are not yet allowed to reopen.
○ Restaurants cannot offer dine-in and will have to continue services on a takeout and delivery basis.
○ Stores — including those that sell clothing, sporting goods, and housewares — are permitted to reopen, but will be limited to 50% capacity at all times and must follow strict cleaning guidelines.
○ Small outdoor gatherings of no more than 10 people will be allowed while maintaining CDC social distancing.
○ Childcare centers will be allowed to open, but they must follow strict cleaning guidelines. Summer day camps will also be allowed to open.
○ Outdoor-only religious services with more than 10 people will be allowed. Congregants must maintain at least six feet of physical distance at all times + are encouraged to wear a face mask.
○ Hiking and biking trails, boat ramps, and restrooms will be open at all NC state parks except Gorges State Park in Transylvania County.
Restrictions on nursing homes and other congregate care facilities will remain in effect.

Phase 2

The statewide stay-at-home order is lifted.
Restaurants + personal care businesses (such as hair + nail salons and tattoo parlors) can reopen at 50% capacity. Face coverings are required for those who work in personal care and are recommended for customers.
Bars, nightclubs, gyms and other indoor fitness facilities remain closed.


○ Outdoor gatherings — including but not limited to venues, meetings, sporting arenas, beaches + parks — are permitted to have 25 people, an increase from 10. Social distancing is still encouraged.
Indoor gatherings are limited to 10 people with social distancing in mind.
○ Public playgrounds will not reopen.
○ Overnight and day camps are permitted to reopen with the requirement that they do daily health screenings of staff + campers.
Swimming pools can reopen at 50% capacity or no more than one person per 33 square feet of deck area. 10 people can be in the pool for every 1,000 square feet.
○ Religious and worship services, funerals + weddings are now exempt from any restrictions.
○ The same rules and restrictions from Phase 1 remain place at nursing homes and other multi-resident care facilities

Phase 2.5

Major changes from Phase 2 and the Safer at Home order include:

Playgrounds will reopen
○ Museums can reopen with 50% occupancy
○ Fitness centers (including gyms, yoga studios, and bowling alleys) can reopen with 30% occupancy.
○ Mass gatherings are now limited to 25 people indoors and 50 people outdoors.
○ Bars remain closed and residents are still required to wear masks where six feet of social distancing isn’t possible.


Phase 3
Major changes from Phase 2.5 include:

○ Bars with outdoor seating can reopen up to 30% capacity, or for 100 guests (whichever is less)
○ Amusement parks and small outdoor venues can reopen up to 30%
○ Movie theatres can reopen up to 30% capacity, or for 100 guests (whichever is less)
○ Large outdoor entertainment venues can reopen up to 7%

The state will consider fully reopening all businesses and venues when certain social health benchmarks are met. This is a developing story and we’ll keep you updated as we learn more in the coming weeks.


An executive order now requires face coverings to be worn across the state in public and private spaces, whenever social distancing of 6+ feet is not possible. Places include:

🔸 Grocery stores + retail
🔸 Salons
🔸 Child-care centers
🔸 Public transportation + ride-shares
🔸 Restaurants (can be removed when customers are at their table)

Exceptions are in place for: individuals under 5 years of age, anyone who is actively eating or drinking, people who are exercising + those who cannot wear masks due to health reasons or religious observances.


How will the mask requirement be enforced? Citations may be issued to businesses that do not enforce the mask requirement for employees and customers. Law enforcement is not sanctioned to cite individual employees for non-compliance + will lean on education protocols rather than criminal enforcement for the general public.


Originally published May 21 + last updated October 2. This article features contributions and research from Erin McPherson + Trevor Peters.

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