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Orange County Takes Another Step Forward in Reopening

Friday, Sept. 4, 2020
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Following the state’s lead, Orange County will move into Governor Roy Cooper’s Phase 2.5 of the statewide reopening plan at 5 p.m. today, Sept. 4, with a few exceptions.

The county has amended its state of emergency declaration to align with the state plan except on mass gathering limits and the expiration date. State restrictions under Executive Order 163 will remain in effect in Orange County through Oct. 31 despite the state expiration date of Oct. 2.

In Orange County, the limit on mass gatherings will remain at 10 people indoors and 25 outdoors. This limit will be reconsidered when the county’s positivity rate for COVID tests decreases to 5%. It is currently at almost 10%, according to data from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.

“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, chair of the Orange County Board of Commissioners. “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.”

Hillsborough Mayor Jenn Weaver also encouraged continued adherence to the three Ws.

“As more things open up in this phase, it remains critical for all of us to keep practicing the three Ws,” she said. “We are still in a pandemic, so let’s keep up those best practices to minimize its spread. We all need to count on each other.”

Playgrounds opening Sept. 11

In Orange County, the opening of playgrounds will occur Sept. 11 to allow staff in the county and towns of Carrboro, Chapel Hill and Hillsborough time to prepare the areas for use. Some maintenance had been deferred due to the COVID-19 closure and reduced staffing levels. This administrative decision of the county and municipalities on the opening date was recommended by parks and recreation managers throughout the county.

The following amenities will reopen the morning of Sept. 11:

  • Playgrounds
  • Picnic shelter reservations, up to a maximum of 25 people per reservation
  • Bocce court (Chapel Hill)
  • Dog park (Carrboro)
  • Pump track (Carrboro)
  • Sand volleyball courts for 2 versus 2 play (Chapel Hill)
  • Doubles play at public tennis and pickleball courts

Parks and trails have been open since late May. Also open are outdoor restrooms, disc golf courses, skate parks, most dog parks, and tennis and pickleball courts. Some indoor recreation facilities have reopened for scheduled programs (while adhering to strict safety and exposure control protocol), and some have remained closed. Limited lap and recreational swimming opportunities are available.

Organized league play will continue to be suspended at the courts. Also remaining closed will be athletic fields, outdoor basketball courts, and public gymnasiums.

Safer at Home Phase 2.5

With the exception of stricter local orders in Orange County and elsewhere in the state, Phase 2.5 of the governor’s statewide COVID-19 restrictions means:

  • Mass gathering limits will increase to 25 people indoors and 50 people outdoors. (In Orange County, limits of 10 people indoors and 25 people outdoors will continue.)
  • Playgrounds may open. (This will occur Sept. 11 in Orange County.)
  • Museums and aquariums may open at 50% capacity.
  • Gyms and indoor exercise facilities may open at 30% capacity. This includes yoga studios, martial arts, rock climbing, skating rinks, bowling alleys, and indoor basketball and volleyball.
  • The age requirement for wearing masks will be lowered to require masks for ages 5 and older.
  • Remaining closed will be bars, nightclubs, movie theaters, indoor entertainment facilities, amusement parks and dance halls.
  • Large venues will remain subject to the mass gatherings limit.

The governor also has extended an 11 p.m. curfew on alcohol sales at restaurants to Oct. 2. Through the current amendment of its state of emergency declaration, Orange County’s curfew on alcohol sales will align with the state’s curfew of 11 p.m., effective today and continuing through Oct. 31.

In addition, NCDHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen has issued a secretarial order allowing for outdoor visitation at nursing homes or skilled nursing facilities. Nursing homes must meet several requirements, including:

  • Not having a current outbreak.
  • Having a testing plan and updated written infection control or preparedness plan for COVID-19.
  • Having adequate personal protective equipment.

Current data indicates that risk of transmission in outdoor settings is lower compared to indoor settings. The continued use of technology to keep families connected as much as possible is still highly encouraged. The secretarial order is effective at 5 p.m. today and remains in effect through Sept. 22.

Reliable information

For the latest information and guidance relating to Hillsborough and Orange County’s COVID-19 response:

Related documents


Document Orange County declaration amendment  

Document What's New in Phase 2.5 (English)  

Document Executive Order  

Document Executive Order FAQs (English)  

Document Executive Order FAQs (Spanish)  

Document Secretarial Order