As North Carolina moves into Phase 2.5 Friday afternoon, easing some COVID-19-related restrictions, Orange County will keep some stricter measures in place.

The county will continue limiting mass gatherings to 10 people indoors and 25 outdoors and delay opening playgrounds until Sept. 11.

Gov. Roy Cooper announced Wednesday that playgrounds would reopen at 5 p.m. Friday, as well as museums and aquariums at 50% capacity and gyms, yoga studios and other indoor fitness facilities at 30%. Bars, movie theaters, amusement parks and nightclubs will remain closed until at least Oct. 2.

The state also increased mass gathering limits to 25 people indoors and 50 outdoors.

Orange County will keep its stricter Phase 2.5 restrictions in place until Oct. 31, despite Cooper’s order expiring on Oct. 2.

The governor’s order lets counties set stricter COVID restrictions than the state’s if they choose to do so.

In a press release Friday, the county said it would revisit its mass gathering restrictions once Orange County’s percent positive testing rate for the coronavirus reaches 5%

Currently, Orange County is reporting around a 10% positive rate. That rate has increase steadily in the last two weeks, coinciding with UNC-Chapel Hill’s return to classes. The 18-24 age group now represents 47% of all Orange County COVID cases since the pandemic began.

“We need the community to partner with us in order to get the positivity rate down to 5% for a sustained amount of time,” said Penny Rich, the chair of the Orange County Board of Commissioners, in a release. “Any indoor and outdoor gatherings still require strict adherence to the three Ws: Wear a face covering over your mouth and nose, wait 6 feet away from people who are not members of your household, and wash your hands regularly.”

Durham to adopt statewide measures

Durham will adopt the new statewide Phase 2.5 guidelines, the city said Friday in a news release. Throughout much of the pandemic, Durham often has taken a more restrictive route with COVID-related guidelines than the rest of the state, including an earlier stay-at-home order.

“We believe Durham’s earlier adoption of Stay-At-Home orders and maintaining some stricter actions than the state, have served us well, enabling us to align with the Governor’s orders at this time,” Durham Mayor Steve Schewel said in a statement. “Our case numbers have fallen and are holding steady with our low number of hospitalized COVID patients.”

The Durham mayor said more restrictive measures could be taken if local cases spike.

“But we are also very hopeful that our businesses can continue to open up in this step-by-step way to bring our economy back,” he said.

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Drew Jackson writes about restaurants and dining for The News & Observer and The Herald-Sun, covering the food scene in the Triangle and North Carolina.

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