North Carolina's stay at home order took effect at 5 p.m. on Monday.
State, county and local government entities have been hard at work over the past week passing legislation aimed at stopping the spread of COVID-19 coronavirus.
On Monday, a statewide “Stay at home” order issued by North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper went into effect. The order further limits what type of businesses are allowed to remain open to the public and instructs North Carolina residents to only travel for essential goods and services.
Among the businesses considered essential, and thus allowed to stay open, are healthcare facilities, grocery stores, hardware and home improvement stores, pharmacies and restaurants that offer takeout or delivery service.
“To continue our aggressive battle against COVID-19, I have signed a ‘Stay at home’ order for the entire state of North Carolina,” Cooper said in a written statement. “Though it is difficult, we must do this to slow the disease spread,” said Governor Cooper. “We need our medical system to be able to care for the friends and family we know will become seriously ill from the virus.”
Statewide there have been 1,307 cases of coronavirus as of Tuesday afternoon. Among those cases are six deaths. Nationwide there have been 164,610 cases of COVID-19 and 3,003 deaths.
Cooper’s order will remain in place until April 30, unless rescinded or extended before that deadline.
The Macon County Board of Commissioners held an emergency meeting on Thursday, March 26 and ultimately passed a county proclamation that closes all hotels, motels and rentals until further notice.
There is an exemption in the proclamation that allows hotels and motels to rent rooms to citizens who are in Macon County on essential business. Also included in the Macon County proclamation is a measure to screen all passengers arriving at the Macon County Airport and to not allow entrance into the county if those passengers are not in the county on official business.
No mass gatherings of more than 10 people are allowed countywide and anyone who travels to Macon County from out of state to a second residence must self-quarantine for a period of 14 days.
The proclamation also gives authority to Macon County Emergency Services Director Warren Cabe to amend or add to the regulations as he sees fit without board approval.
“While there is no definite end date for when the county order may be rescinded, we plan to discuss all of these measures again at our regularly scheduled April 14 board meeting,” commissioner Jim Tate said. “Until that time, we hope that everyone will continue to take the appropriate measures to keep themselves and their families healthy.”
The county proclamation mandates that all citizens follow the proper social distancing protocols as directed by the Center for Disease Control. Those protocols call for citizens to maintain six feet of separation, avoid public gatherings, practice thorough hand washing and cover all coughs and sneezes.
Town amends proclamation
In an emergency meeting on Wednesday, March 25, the Town of Highlands amended its proclamation dealing with COVID-19 regulations.
After a lengthy discussion, the town board decided to close all retail businesses to the public, excluding those deemed essential such as grocery stores, hardware stores and pharmacies.
All restaurants that are offering carryout or delivery, must bring orders to patrons cars curbside. The goal is to limit the number of potential exposures created by going into a restaurant to pay and pickup food items.
“We have to do what we can to limit the contact that people are having in public places,” commissioner Amy Patterson said. “The less people touch common items and congregate in public places the better.”
Also in the revised proclamation is a measure that requires anyone coming to Highlands to reside (stay one night or more) to self-quarantine for 14 days. The town’s state of emergency proclamation had already closed all hotels, motels and rentals as of March 23.
While there was a lengthy discussion on possibly closing the town’s borders along all roadways, that action was deemed impossible due to logistical issues including emergency response, manpower and the number of ingress/egress points the town would have to oversee.
Instead, the Highlands Police Department began conducting checkpoints along US 64, NC 28 and NC 106 on Thursday, March 26. Anyone who lives or works in Highlands is allowed to pass, as are citizens driving through Highlands to another destination, but potential visitors without any official business in Highlands are turned away.
What is coronavirus?
COVID-19 coronavirus is a new virus that has not been previously identified. The virus causing COVID-19 is not the same as coronaviruses that commonly circulate among humans and cause mild illnesses and common colds.
The COVID-19 coronavirus was first detected in January in Wuhan, China. According to the CDC, the first infections were linked to a live animal market, but the virus is now being spread from person to person.
Because the virus is airborne, the CDC has recommended a specific set of guidelines related to slowing the spread of COVID-19. Those recommendations include:
• Staying home if a person feels ill.
• Practicing social distancing and staying six feet away from others in public.
• Avoiding large crowds and mass gatherings.
• Washing hands with soap and warm water, or alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
• Covering all coughs and sneezes with a tissue.
• Wearing a facemask if a person is sick (not necessary if healthy).