Changes to North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper’s executive order regarding the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic took effect on April 9.
Cooper announced stricter measures for essential retail businesses, aimed at increasing compliance with social distancing guidelines recommended by the Center of Disease Control to slow the spread of the virus.
Retail stores must now make all shopping aisles one-way and must mark on the floor where patrons may stand at “gathering areas” such as checkout lines. The recommended social distance by the CDC is six feet.
“North Carolina continues to take strong action to slow the spread of COVID-19, and today’s Order will help make stores safer, protect those living and working in nursing homes, and get more unemployment benefits out quicker,” Cooper said in a written statement. “Our state is resilient, and we will get through this crisis together if we all do our part.”
Along with the social distancing requirements for retail businesses, Cooper’s order limits the number of customers that can be inside a business to 20 percent of the building’s fire code capacity. It also requires retail businesses to clean and sanitize common areas on a regular schedule.
The order cancels communal dining at nursing homes and long-term care facilities and requires that employees and essential personnel have their temperature taken upon entering a facility.
The order also makes it easier for employers to file a batch of claims, called an attached claim, on behalf of their employees. The hope is that the legislation will speed up the period between when claims are filed and when employees begin receiving their unemployment benefits.
Cooper’s order will remain in effect until 60 days after the North Carolina State of Emergency is lifted.
Second Macon case
The Macon County Public Health department received word on Wednesday, April 8 that a second county resident tested positive for COVID-19.
According to information provided by MCPH, the patient is between the ages of 25-49 and has an underlying health condition. The patient is in isolation at a local healthcare facility. Due to privacy laws, no further information about the patient will be made public.
MCPH staff members are working to identify any close contacts that the patient may have encountered prior to his diagnosis. The CDC defines close contacts as being within six feet of an individual for a period of at least 10 minutes.
The second Macon County resident to test positive is the fourth case of COVID-19 connected to the county. In March a traveler from New York tested positive and self-quarantined for 14 days in Highlands. Earlier this month a second homeowner in Jackson County, originally from Maryland, tested positive at Highlands Cashiers Hospital before being transferred to Mission Hospital in Asheville.
Stay at home orders
The state of North Carolina, Macon County and the Town of Highlands have each issued a stay at home order that continues to be in effect.
Highlands has closed all town-owned buildings, including the Highlands Rec Center and Town Hall. All playgrounds are also closed and areas where people may congregate, such as the stage at Kelsey-Hutchinson Founders Park, the pavilion at the dog park and public restrooms are also off limits.
All retail businesses are closed, except for those deemed essential by the state, such as grocery stores, pharmacies and home improvement stores. Restaurants are only open for curbside takeout or delivery.
All hotels, motels and rentals are closed until further notice. Anyone coming to Highlands from out of state is required to self-quarantine for a period of 14 days from the date they arrive.