(The Center Square) – A third bill aimed at reversing COVID-19 restrictions mandated by North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper is headed to his desk.
Senate Bill 599 would reopen bowling alleys and skating rinks at 50 percent capacity and allow outdoor seating at minor league stadiums at 10 percent capacity despite Cooper's executive order that keeps them closed.
The Senate gave the measure the final nod Thursday with a 32-15 affirmative vote. The measure would require the facilities to follow public health and social distancing requirements.
Sen. Don Davis, D-Greene, said he was concerned about the businesses operating safely.
“I think a lot of skaters are out falling and stumbling all over each other,” he said.
Supporters of the bill said business owners have been proactive in making sure they find ways to keep activities safe.
Sen. Carl Ford, R-Rowan, said he was in the roller skating businesses in the 1970s, and he is familiar with how they operate.
“They run these rinks still today in a very safe way ... making sure people don't knock each other out and knock each other over the walls,” he said.
The General Assembly has passed two other bills that reopen businesses in North Carolina amid the coronavirus outbreak.
House Bill 594, a measure that reopens gyms and bars, was approved by the General Assembly last week and is awaiting Cooper's signature. The bill passed a few days after Cooper vetoed a similar piece of legislation.
The House voted, 68-52, to move the bill to reopen bowling alleys and skating rinks Tuesday.
Rep. John Szoka, R-Cumberland, told House members Tuesday that business owners in his district has reached out to him about how the restrictions have negatively affected their family businesses that have been around for multiple decades.
"Now, personally, I would much rather see the three bowling alleys and the two skating rinks in Cumberland County remain reopened safely, putting other employees back to work and off of unemployment than having shut the doors," Szoka said.
The state is in phase two of reopening, but Cooper has been cautious in lifting restrictions.
The phase was supposed to include the limited opening of restaurants, bars, fitness centers, personal care services and playgrounds. However, bars, gyms, fitness facilities, playgrounds have remained closed. Cooper hinted this week the state may be entering into the next phase by June 26. However, his decisions hinge on the status of the outbreak in the state.
As of Thursday, about 45 percent of the 41,188 COVID-19 cases in the North Carolina are among people between 25-49 years old. A large portion of the COVID-19 deaths – 62 percent – have been reported among people who live in congregate living settings, such as long-term care facilities.
Hospitalizations and new daily cases of COVID-19 have increased, according to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services data.
As of Thursday, 875 people were hospitalized with COVID-19, and 9 percent of the tests performed were positive for COVID-19.
Cooper continued to urge North Carolinians to wear face coverings and health recommendations that limit the spread of the coronavirus during his news briefing Thursday. He also announced a plan to test every inmate and staff member in the state’s prison system.