Local News

'Shelter in place' doesn't mean a complete lockdown

Posted March 18, 2020 5:47 p.m. EDT
Updated March 24, 2020 5:11 p.m. EDT

Coronavirus has popped up in 20 of the 100 counties in North Carolina, with nearly half of the cases in Wake and Durham counties.

In some areas hard-hit by the virus, residents have been told to shelter in place to limit the spread of the virus, but a Wake County emergency management official said that's currently not under consideration here.

"That is something we have discussed. We have it as a planning perspective, but not something we have looked to implement directly," Darshan Patel said.

Still, Patel said, local officials have talked to authorities in the San Francisco area, which is under a shelter-in-place order.

"We have had discussions with them on what that looks like from an enforcement perspective, what that means from a moving perspective," Patel said. "We have to, obviously, if that were something that we got to, we would have to work to make sure people had access to the resources they need for their own health and safety and well-being.”

Under the rules in San Francisco, people can still leave their home and exercise. But bars and gyms had to close, and restaurants became take-out only. Essential businesses like grocery stores, gas stations, banks and pharmacies remain open there.

Many of those rules are already in place in North Carolina.

"This is a rapidly evolving situation, and we are continuing to assess what we need to put into place, and we will make further recommendations as we go forward," State health Director Dr. Elizabeth Tilson said when asked about a statewide shelter-in-place order.

Responding to the virus has already taken over a lot of Wake County government.

The county Board of Elections offices have been converted to a call center where people working the phones – some have been reassigned from other jobs, such as librarians now that libraries are closed – answer questions from business owners looking for guidance and people who think they may be sick.

"This is a front line, absolutely. This is the front line for Wake County," Patel said. "The county manager and the administration have made this a priority for Wake County."

Patel said the call center could be operating for another eight weeks or more. In other rooms of the Board of Elections office, emergency officials are coordinating with other local leaders and the state. Communication is constant, he said.

"Part of that is because this is a very new virus. We are learning things, the CDC is learning things every single day," he said. "What we are doing is trying to adapt to the ever-changing information."

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