Afternoon Observer | NC mask mandate + gas shortages

·4 min read

Happy Friday, Charlotte. This is Kristen, hoping you’re all getting ready for another beautiful Carolinas weekend. Looking for things to do for the next couple days? Luckily for you, we have yet another roundup from CharlotteFive to guide us through the social programming of the weekend. From outdoor yoga to beer tasting opportunities, you’re sure to find something interesting to do around town from May 14-20.

Now, let’s talk about today’s headlines:

1. NC eases mask mandate, but some Charlotte businesses aren’t ready

Mel Essex, manager of Lil’ Roberts Place in downtown Concord, N.C., takes down a sign on the door on Friday afternoon, May 14, 2021. “It’s pretty exciting,” she said. Bartenders will continue to wear masks, she said.
Mel Essex, manager of Lil’ Roberts Place in downtown Concord, N.C., takes down a sign on the door on Friday afternoon, May 14, 2021. “It’s pretty exciting,” she said. Bartenders will continue to wear masks, she said.

On Friday, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper announced he will lift most mask mandates — effective immediately. He also says all gathering limits and social distancing requirements are lifting. This new order comes after similar guidance was given by the CDC on Thursday.

Despite the new NC guidance, not all Charlotte-area businesses are ready to abandon safety practices. For example, at Charlotte’s Fire House or Recess nightclubs, customers will be required to show proof of vaccination, co-owner Clarence Boston told the Observer. “It will be checked like an ID,” he said.

Important to note: Masks are still required in NC on public transit, as well as at child care centers, schools, prisons and public health settings, Cooper said.

“The pandemic is still here, especially for those who are not vaccinated...” Cooper urged. “Get vaccinated now. If you don’t listen to me, listen to your doctor and do what your doctor tells you.”

Learn more about the guidance and the reactions of Charlotte businesses with the Observer’s Catherine Muccigrosso, Alison Kuznitz, Hannah Smoot and Joe Marusak.

2. As weekend starts, drivers can expect continued gas shortages

Amy Williams gets gas at the Circle K on Randolph Road in Charlotte, N.C., on Thursday, May 13, 2021. Price per gallon of Regular gas is $2.89.
Amy Williams gets gas at the Circle K on Randolph Road in Charlotte, N.C., on Thursday, May 13, 2021. Price per gallon of Regular gas is $2.89.

Charlotte experienced long lines at gas stations and pervasive fuel shortages this week as a result of the Colonial Pipeline shutdown. The weekend may not be different because it could take “several days” for fuel supply to return to normal levels, according to the company.

What we’re looking at:

  • As of Friday afternoon, 65% of North Carolina gas stations were out of fuel and 66.4% of stations in Charlotte were experiencing gas outages, GasBuddy.com energy analyst Patrick DeHaan said.

  • Meanwhile, gas prices continue to increase: Regular unleaded gas rose to $2.89, compared to $2.87 on Thursday, according to AAA.

“Have patience,” Tiffany Wright, director of public affairs for AAA Carolinas, wrote in an email to the Observer on Friday. “The Carolinas will continue to see limited fuel supply for the next few days. Refuel is on the way!”

Have you been able to get gas? Have you experienced difficulty finding any? Drop me a line and share your experience!

3. City council proposed progressive housing policy, but opponents want to nix it

Across the country, some cities have disavowed the practice of zoning areas to only permit single-family homes. The effort is in an attempt to increase the supply of affordable housing. Charlotte seemed poised to join the trend, as the Observer’s Danielle Chemtob reports, with city leaders proposing a plan to allow duplexes and triplexes on every lot. Now, in the face of opposition, the council could compromise on the measure — or even scrap it.

The details:

  • The proposal is part of Charlotte’s 2040 comprehensive plan, which is intended to guide the city’s growth for the next two decades.

  • Folks against the proposal claim it would impact the character of single-family neighborhoods, make traffic worse or accelerate gentrification.

  • Supporters of the measure fear that abandoning the proposal will take away an opportunity to desegregate the city’s neighborhoods and increase the supply of affordable housing.

Find out more about the proposal and the council’s approaches toward it with Chemtob.

4. Coca-Cola 600 NASCAR race will open at full capacity — masks not required

Charlotte Motor Speedway announced Friday that this year, the Coca-Cola 600 will happen without seating limitations. In addition, masks will not be required outdoors — though if you’re unvaccinated, the speedway requests you still wear a mask.

“We are thrilled with today’s news that will allow fans to return to America’s Home for Racing without limitation,” CMS general manager Greg Walter said in a release.

Last year’s race was held without fans due to the coronavirus pandemic. Learn more with the Observer’s Rick Bonnell.

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