By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
ONE FEATHER STAFF
Both the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI) and the State of North Carolina are moving into Phase III of COVID-19 re-opening beginning at 5 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 2. N.C. Gov. Roy Cooper issued an executive order on Wednesday, Sept. 30 authorizing movie theaters, conference, amusement parks, and more at 30 percent capacity, and Principal Chief Richard G. Sneed issued a similar order on Thursday, Oct. 1.
“Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians tribal citizens, employees, community members, and valued guests have been gracious, patient, and understanding as we work to protect the health of our community in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Chief Sneed stated in his order. “The measures implemented thus far have been aimed at reducing the transmission of COVID-19 amongst our community members.”
His order, affecting EBCI tribal lands, states that movie theaters can open at 30 percent capacity and are encouraged to stagger movie start times “to reduce congestion in the lobby”. Social distancing in the movie auditoriums and lobby areas is still in effect as is the mask mandate except for those in an auditorium who are eating and/or drinking. The order also states, “Establishments are required to sanitize auditoriums after each viewing to reduce the spread of COVID-19.”
Chief Sneed’s order also allows meeting and event spaces, whether they be retail, private, or governmental, to open to “allow for no more than 30 percent capacity indoors and 50 percent outdoors, if social distancing measures may still be accomodated”. It continues, “No indoor standing receptions, events, or cocktail hours will be allowed as businesses are required to ensure guests are seated for the majority of the event to encourage social distancing and thereby reduce the spread of COVID-19. Masks must be worn while patrons are using common areas but may be removed while seated for dining.”
Gov. Cooper said in a statement on Wednesday, “Our top priority remains getting children back to in-person learning. This month marks a major shift for many families now and in the coming months as schools open their doors, some for the first time since the pandemic. The virus continues to spread so we must take the next steps methodically and responsibly.”
Some of the points in Gov. Cooper’s order include:
* Outdoor venues (greater than 10,000-person occupancy) may operate at 7 percent capacity
* Smaller outdoor entertainment venues may operate at 30 percent capacity or 100 guests (whichever is less)
* Movie theaters and conference centers may open indoors at 30 percent capacity or 100 guests (whichever is less)
* Bars may operate outdoors at 30 percent capacity or 100 guests (whichever is less)
* Amusement parks may open at 30 percent capacity (outdoor attractions only)
* One item remains the same – the limits on mass gatherings are still 25 people indoors and 50 people outdoors
Dr. Mandy Cohen, Secretary of N.C. Health and Human Services, commented on Wednesday, “We must continue our hard work to slow the spread of this virus. By practicing the three Ws – wear, wait and wash – getting your flu shot, and downloading the SLOWCOVIDNC app, each of us can protect the progress we have made.”