GREENSBORO, N.C. — Summer starts for many by June 1 and it could also be when most COVID-19 restrictions in the state are lifted. It's something many in North Carolina have long hoped for in order to get back to normal. Governor Roy Cooper has set his eyes on that goal to have restrictions lifted in roughly 40 days.
"With increasing vaccination rates and ongoing work to slow the spread of the virus, I anticipate that we will be able to lift all mandatory social distancing capacity and mass gathering restrictions by June 1," Cooper said.
This would include all mandatory social distancing, capacity, and mass gatherings. However, the governor said vaccinations remained the key to achieving this target and securing herd immunity.
"With at least 2/3 of adults vaccinated, our public health experts believe we will have enough protection across our communities to be able to live more safely with this virus and begin to put the pandemic behind us," Cooper said.
So far, more than 6.5 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered to the public. Some of that went to 46.9% of adults who are now partially vaccinated and 35.1% of adults who are fully vaccinated.
Health experts have said an overall snail pace vaccination process, a slow uptick in COVID-19 cases, plus relaxed rules were a recipe to return to January's high numbers.
"That's something that we would like to avoid if you remember that was a very bad time," Dr. Chrisptoper Ohl of Wake Forest Baptist Health said.
Warm weather and springtime social activities were also primary drivers of a likely upward COVID-19 case trend in the next 3 months, according to Dr. Ohl. He said he was worried about things like prom and spring dances.
"Couples going out spending time together in a non-socially distant way and transmissions are going to occur, I can guarantee you with these events," Ohl said.
For now, though, state officials said continued safety protocols would still serve as mitigation.
"Masks will still be important and safety protocols will still be recommended in certain settings," Mandy Cohen, NC DHHS said.
Some of those remaining safety protocols include 50% capacity at bars, 75% capacity indoors at restaurants and gyms. Mass gathering limits are still 50 inside and 100 outside and masks are still required statewide.
Next week, Governor Cooper is scheduled to issue an executive order that would include new, possibly lessened restrictions for the month of May.