State Government to Allow 7 Percent Capacity at Outdoor Event Venues, Launches COVID-19 App

Governor Roy Cooper announced North Carolina will be allowed to progress to another small step of reopening amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The governor said at a press conference Tuesday large outdoor event venues will be allowed to open at 7 percent capacity beginning on Friday, October 2. The venues, largely athletics facilities and stadiums, must have at least 10,000 seats to be able to open. It’s the latest move in reopening following the state’s transition to Phase 2.5, which began September 4.

Cooper indicated the decision is a result of the state’s coronavirus trends continuing to stabilize, but that attendees to events at outdoor venues will still be required to wear face coverings and physically distance from others to prevent the spread of COVID-19. He also said health experts made the suggestion to open at this capacity based on the levels of risk for outdoor stadiums, compared to bars, movie theaters and other indoor businesses still closed by Cooper’s executive order.

“We share this news today so those venues with seating capacity more than 10,000 can begin preparation

“We have seen our strength and team spirit on full display these last six months,” said the governor when talking about North Carolinians’ adherence to public health guidelines. “If we keep up our commitment, we can drive our numbers down even more and put our state in a position to come out of this pandemic even stronger.”

For UNC Athletics, Kenan Stadium will be allowed to open 3,570 seats of its 51,000 for remaining football games. Other outdoor fall sports stadiums, however, like Dorrance Field and Karen Shelton Stadium, do not meet the 10,000 seat requirement. Carmichael Arena and the Dean E. Smith Center also do not qualify because they are indoors.

Carolina Athletics Director Bubba Cunningham shared a statement following the state government’s announcement, saying the university is “thrilled” to begin to welcome back spectators next month.

“We will be particularly excited to have parents and students back in our stands,” he wrote. “We are working with health experts and our University on plans for seating, concessions and continued communication of community standards, with the health of our student-athletes, coaches and staff, and community as our top priority.”

The governor also announced a relief funding program for small businesses that lost revenue between April and July due to COVID-19. The program, called N.C. Mortgage, Utility and Rent Relief, will be administered by the North Carolina Department of Commerce and can provide up to $20,000 in relief funds to each business location. Applicants from certain industry sectors unable to operate during those months, like movie theaters, museums, bars, dance halls and gyms, may apply for up to two of their business locations.

The state also launched a new smartphone app meant to help North Carolinians track potential exposure to the virus, called SlowCOVIDNC. The app is meant to notify users of a potential exposure if another app users has logged they recently had a positive COVID-19 test. State health officials say North Carolinians’ privacy will be protected, as the app collects and shares date, time, signal strength and duration of proximity instead of location data or personally identifiable data.

Cooper said his administration will be announcing plans next week what the next step of his state of emergency order will be, which he indicated could have further easing of restrictions. The order is slated to expire on October 2 at 5 p.m.

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