Executive Order No. 209

April 28, 2021 

This FAQ provides guidance for the implementation of Executive Order No. 209 (“Order”).  In light of the continued progress the state has achieved in its key COVID-19 metrics, and the reduced risk of transmission of COVID-19 in outdoor settings, this Order lifts the requirement that Face Coverings must be worn outdoors when six (6) feet of social distance cannot be consistently maintained from nonhousehold members. This Order also maintains the current percentage occupancy limits on certain establishments, in anticipation of lifting most capacity and social distancing restrictions on businesses covered by the Order in June 2021. The Order also raises the Mass Gathering limits to one hundred (100) people indoors and two hundred (200) outdoors.  These public health restrictions remain in effect to continue to protect against the spread of the virus. The Order becomes effective April 30, 2021 at 5:00 p.m and will remain in effect through June 1, 2021 at 5:00 p.m. Below are frequently asked questions (“FAQs”) and their answers. In addition, individuals should check with local governments to determine whether additional restrictions have been imposed in their local jurisdictions to limit the spread of COVID-19.   

This information is subject to change in light of new Centers for Disease Control & Prevention guidance and additional Executive Orders, further agency guidance, or local government declarations.

  1. Executive Order No. 209 FAQ
  2. Capacity Limits FAQ
  3. What Comes Next?
  4. NFPA Building Reopening Checklist
  5. Temporary Barriers for  Isolation Purposes
  6. Swimming Pools

What are the major changes under this Order?   

  • This Order lifts the requirement that Face Coverings be worn outdoors anytime that social distancing of at least six (6) feet cannot consistently be maintained from non-household members. Under this Order, Face Coverings are no longer required in any outdoor setting.  
  • The indoor mass gathering limit is raised to one hundred (100) persons and the outdoor mass gathering limit is raised to two hundred (200) persons.
  • Larger venues, auditoriums, amphitheaters, arenas, and other venues for live performances may be eligible to admit guests at a higher capacity provided the venue receives pre-approval from NCDHHS of its health and safety plan.

What are the capacity limits and social distancing requirements on businesses covered by this Executive Order?  

This Order extends until June 1, 2021 most public health measures set by Executive Order No. 204, including capacity limitations and social distancing requirements.  Certain large venues can host additional Guests, provided the venue receives pre-approval of its health and safety plan from NCDHHS.  

Are other public health precautions still in place? 

Yes. North Carolinians must still be vigilant in adhering to the 3 Ws (Wear a Face Covering, Wait at least 6 feet apart, and Wash your hands often!) and businesses must be persistent in practicing public health and safety protocols.  

When does this Order take effect?

This Order takes effect on April 30, 2021, at 5:00 pm and will remain in effect until June 1, 2021 at 5:00 p.m., unless repealed, replaced, or rescinded. 

What remains the same under this Order? 

Under this Order:

  • Capacity limitations on all businesses remain the same as under Executive Order No. 204, as detailed below.
  • Businesses are divided into three general categories, based on capacity limitations detailed below.
  • Social distancing protocol, sanitation standards, other public health restrictions, and NCDHHSGuidance remain in effect.
  • A Face Covering is still required in all public indoor settings if there are non-household members present, regardless of the individual’s ability to maintain social distance.  

What can I do to ensure my mask is as protective as possible?  

NCDHHS has additional recommendations to improve mask wearing based on guidance from the CDC. To ensure masks are as protective as possible, NCDHHS recommends that you:  

  • Make sure your mask fits snugly against your face and covers your nose and mouth. To help with a snug fit, you can use a mask with a metal strip along the top of the mask.  
  • Use two or more layers for your Face Covering. You can do this by wearing a cloth Face Covering with two or more layers or by wearing one disposable mask (sometimes referred to as a surgical mask or a medical procedure mask) underneath a cloth mask.  
  • Do not wear two disposable masks.  
  • Make sure you can see and breathe easily.  

For additional information on how to improve mask wearing, please see updated guidelines from the CDC.

Why are Face Coverings no longer required to be worn in outdoors settings? 

Data show that the risk of transmission of COVID-19 is much lower in outdoor settings. In addition, our state has experienced improvement in its key COVID-19 metrics as compared to several months ago.  The state has also expanded its access to personal protective equipment and other necessary materials to better protect the population from the spread of COVID-19.  Additionally, the state has mounted a robust vaccination effort, to distribute its allocated supply of COVID-19 vaccines authorized by the Food and Drug Administration to all people living in or spending significant time in North Carolina.   In light of these factors, the Governor has determined it is reasonable and necessary to lift the outdoor Face Covering requirement.