It looks like this may be the beginning of the end of coronavirus lockdowns, stay-at-home orders and curfews.

Gov. Roy Cooper announced Wednesday, Feb. 24 that, by Executive Order 195, on Friday, Feb. 26, he would be easing some restrictions and canceling the 10 p.m. curfew.

The curfew had so many exemptions it was routinely ignored, but easing the restrictions on businesses is moving in the right direction.

Bars will finally be able to open for indoor service.  Since October, bars have been allowed to serve outside but not inside.  When it’s 35 degrees and raining, it’s tough to convince people what they really want to do is stand around outside a bar and drink.  Under the new executive order, capacity will be limited to 30 percent of the official occupancy, but 30 percent is a lot more than zero percent, which is where bars have been since last March 17.  Last call for alcohol sales has been extended from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. for bars, restaurants and other venues that sell alcohol for onsite consumption.

High school sports will no longer be limited to 100 spectators. The limit will depend on the size of the venue.  There is a bill currently in the state Senate to do the same thing, and the bill’s sponsors requested that Cooper increase the allowed number of spectators so their bill would become moot.

Speaker of the state House Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) in a press release gave a lot of credit to the influence from the legislature for Cooper relaxing his restrictions. Moore said, “We are encouraged that the intent and action of the General Assembly has led the Governor in this direction since we returned to session, as lawmakers answered to our constituents all across the state who believe that we need to be safely reopening schools and businesses.”

Moore added, “North Carolina has lagged behind most of our neighboring states when it comes to reopening.  I am glad the Governor has taken this step and the General Assembly will continue to advocate for safely reopening schools and the economy.”

The executive order also raises the gathering size limit from 10 indoors to 25 and to 50 people outdoors.

The mask mandate has not changed and at bars and restaurants people who are not actively eating or drinking are required to wear masks as well as all the employees.

Most businesses including restaurants are still limited to 50 percent of their legal occupancy.