THOMASVILLE — Local businesses and retailers across the city will now welcome more customers after Gov. Roy Cooper’s most recent executive order went into effect Friday afternoon.

Cooper announced the most impactful relaxation of COVID-19 restrictions since the state’s phased reopening in response to the COVID-19 pandemic began months ago. A new emergency order that became effective at 5 p.m. yesterday will allow for up to 100% capacity for retailers, salons and museums as long as mask and social distancing mandates are maintained.

Capacity limits also will increase, though not to 100%, for such businesses as restaurants, bars and fitness centers.

In Thomasville, business owners began processing the news and what it would mean for determining their next course of action. Luca Gialone, owner of Elizabeth’s Pizza at 106 W. Main St., said the promise of greater occupancy meant an opportunity to serve customers in a more similar fashion to which patrons have grown accustomed.

“More people are going to come,” Gialone said. “People are going to be able to eat quicker, so the guests are going to be happier. Business-wise, I think it will be good.”

Word of relaxed restrictions came as a relief to many businesses that have been hampered by limitations to the number of people who could enter their buildings. Gialone mentioned lines and wait times as byproducts of the pandemic, and he expressed optimism that this could help reverse the difficulties of working in the hospitality industry during a pandemic.

His business survived, he said, in part because of an adaptable business model and in part because of the support it received from the community.

“Thanks to the people of Thomasville, we were able to stay open,” Gialone said. “They helped us out with the to-go. We do a lot of carry out. People support us a lot. We were able to stay open, to have employees, to pay them and all the bills every month.”

The relaxed COVID-19 limitations will remain in place through at least April 30. This emergency order also will eliminate a restriction barring the sale and service of alcoholic beverages at bars, restaurants and other establishments after 11 p.m.

Cooper and state Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen emphasized that North Carolinians need to keep wearing masks and maintaining proper social distancing to keep COVID-19 metrics headed in the right direction.

“Our fast and fair vaccine distribution and our sustained progress with the COVID-19 metrics tell us we can move forward with easing restrictions if we do it safely,” Cooper said during the latest COVID-19 briefing at the State Emergency Operations Center in Raleigh.

Cohen cautioned that although the number of new cases each day and the number of people hospitalized continue to decrease, both numbers are showing signs of levelling off.

The governor and Cohen cited increasing vaccinations as another factor in relaxing the COVID-19 restrictions.

As of Tuesday, 32% of North Carolinians 18 years and older have received at least one vaccination dose and 19% are fully vaccinated, according to the state Department of Health and Human Services. More than 4.1 million doses have been administered statewide, Cohen said.

“We are in a promising place,” Cohen said. “With North Carolina’s COVID-19 key metrics improving and vaccinations increasing, we can responsibly use our dimmer switch approach to easing restrictions guided by science and data.”

Here’s what the relaxed restrictions will mean for different businesses and venues:

• Retailers, salons, personal care and grooming businesses, tattoo parlors, museums and aquariums can open at 100% capacity indoors and outdoors.

• Restaurants, breweries, wineries, distilleries, bowling alleys, skating rinks, gyms, yoga studios, fitness centers, pools and amusement parks can open at 75% capacity indoors and 100% outdoors.

• Bars, meeting rooms, conference spaces, lounges, nightclubs, auditoriums, venues for live performances, sports arenas and fields can open at 50% capacity indoors and outdoors.

• Movie theaters and gaming facilities can open at 50% capacity indoors and 75% outdoors.

In circumstances not covered by the above capacity limits, the number of people who may generally gather indoors will increase from 25 to 50, and the number of people who may gather outdoors will increase from 50 to 100.

Staff writer Daniel Kennedy can be reached at 336-888-3578, or at kennedy@tvilletimes.com.

Staff writer Daniel Kennedy can be reached at 336-888-3578, or at kennedy@tvilletimes.com.