Local News

Stay-at-home orders: Here's what they mean

Posted March 26, 2020 9:40 a.m. EDT
Updated April 14, 2020 10:59 p.m. EDT

Cars drive through an empty parking lot at Southpoint Mall in Durham, N.C., Tuesday, March 24, 2020. Many non-essential businesses have closed during the coronavirus outbreak as shoppers stay away. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

— On Wednesday, Durham became the first local government in the Triangle to impose a stay-home-order to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

Orange County issued a similar order at 10 a.m. Thursday, and Wake County made a similar proclamation at 3:30 p.m.

On Friday, Gov. Roy Cooper issued a statewide stay-at-home order for all North Carolinians effective 5 p.m. Monday, March 30, and runs for 30 days.

Durham's order takes effect at 6 p.m. March 26 and runs through April 30. Wake County's order goes into effect at 5 pm. March 27 and ends April 16. Orange County's order will take effect at 6 p.m. March 27 and also run through April 30.

Here's what stay-at-home generally means and what businesses are considered essential:

  • People can go out to get groceries, medications, visit a health care provider, seek social services, care for a child, senior citizen or disabled person, or pick up educational materials and meals from a school.
  • All gatherings of more than 10 people are prohibited. Smaller groups are also barred from athletic activities where "social distancing" cannot occur.
  • Exercise and other outdoor activities that can be done if people keep their distance from each other are allowed. Wake County's order specifically permits golfing, while the Durham and Orange County orders allow for outdoor activity at public or private recreation areas.
  • Businesses considered to provide "essential services" that can remain open include health care providers (including for animals), supermarkets, pet supply stores, pharmacies, gas stations, utilities, banks, insurance companies, media, hardware and stores, construction, laundromats, hotels, dry cleaners, shipping, logistics, and transportation and moving companies.
  • Also excluded from the order: building and construction trades, and other related trades, including plumbers, electricians, exterminators, cleaning and janitorial staff for commercial and governmental properties, security staff, operating engineers, HVAC, painting, moving and relocation services, and other service providers who provide services that are necessary to maintaining the safety, sanitation, and essential operation of homes.
  • Other excluded services: Airlines, taxis, transportation network providers (such as Uber and Lyft), vehicle rental services, and other private, public, and commercial transportation and logistics providers necessary for essential activities such as grocery shopping and seeking medial services.
  • Businesses may continue operations where employees or contractors are performing activities at home.
  • Restaurants can continue to provide drive-thru, takeout and delivery service. Retailers that don't sell food or safety items must provide their goods or services solely online or through delivery or mail order.
  • All places of public amusement where people may gather, whether indoors or outdoors, will be closed, including locations with amusement rides, carnivals, amusement parks, water parks, aquariums, zoos, museums, arcades, fairs, children’s play centers, public or private playgrounds, driving ranges, skate parks, recreation centers, "fun plexes," theme parks, bowling alleys, movie and other theaters, concert and music halls, and country clubs or social clubs.
  • Fishing is not specifically prohibited by various orders, so it is permitted as an outdoor activity if lakes are open and distancing guidelines are followed.
  • ABC stores are governmental functions and are considered exempt.
  • If there are conflicts between city, county and state orders, the stay-at-home order with the most restrictive conditions will apply, Cooper said Friday.
  • The orders do not prohibit residents from traveling between counties for essential work or to drive to others owned homes. Residents should be aware of their particular county's order.

Here's what we don't know about the stay-at-home orders:

  • Some localities, such as the City of Durham, have said that gun shops do not qualify as essential businesses. Other municipalities, such as Wake and Mecklenburg counties, have said gun shops do qualify as essential businesses under a federal memo issued May 19 by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
  • The level of enforcement is unclear. The governor, Durham's mayor and other officials have said people would only be cited or arrested if someone repeatedly or flagrantly violates the order.
  • While the orders have an expiration date, it does not mean they will remain in place the entire time. So we don't know with certainty yet when these orders may be lifted.
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