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Orange County to announce COVID-19 stay-at-home order Thursday in towns, rural areas

MARCH 25, 2020 03:19 PM 
NC officials tell coronavirus patients with mild symptoms to stay home.
Dr. Betsy Tilson, NC state health director, tells patients who may have coronavirus(COVID-19) with mild symptoms to stay home to avoid potentially spreading the virus to health care workers. Tilson spoke to reporters Tuesday, March 24, 2020. 

 

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Orange County plans to enact a stay-at-home order beginning Friday night, joining other Triangle governments in stepped-up efforts to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

The order is set to be published around 10 a.m. Thursday, to go into effect at 6 p.m. Friday, according to an email from Orange County Commissioner Sally Greene. It will run through April 30, with an option to continue or rescind at any time.

The order is expected to limit trips away from home to the grocery store, pharmacy and other essential destinations. Residents will still be able to go outside for walking, biking and other recreation, but will be urged to keep at least 6 feet of distance between themselves and others.

The order will apply countywide, including in the towns of Chapel Hill, Carrboro and Hillsborough.
“The sooner everyone gets on board with following safety protocols, the more lives we save, and the sooner we can get back up and running again,” Chapel Hill Mayor Pam Hemminger said.

Chatham County also is drafting a stay at home order, commissioners Chair Karen Howard said. The order will be similar to what Orange, Durham and others are issuing, she said, and is being done in cooperation with Pittsboro, Siler City and Goldston officials.

Wake County is expected to also issue a stay-at-home order this week. A news conference has been announced for Thursday afternoon with county leaders and health officials about the COVID-19 response.

Orange County’s decision follows Durham Mayor Steve Schewel’s announcement Wednesday that the city and Durham County were issuing a stay-at-home order until April 30.

Elected officials from the county and the towns talked several times about when to issue an order, said Penny Rich, chair of the Orange County Board of Commissioners. It became necessary, because some people were not keeping a social distance or avoiding large groups, she said.

“These are the kinds of things that we’re trying to drive home, that even though you feel good and it feels fine to go out and play basketball, it’s not good to spread the virus and then bring it inside the house and spread it to everyone in your family or anyone else who is going there,” Rich said.

She noted the county has 13 cases so far, and a number of people under observation.

The order doesn’t change much about daily life for those who have been staying at home and following health recommendations, such as frequent hand washing and coughing or sneezing into an elbow.

However, the order prohibits “nonessential” travel, such as to visit family and friends.

Destinations that are considered “essential” could include:

▪ Grocery stores and pharmacies, hardware stores, gas stations, hotels and motels and health-care facilities

▪ Some jobs, including health care, retail, delivery, media, and counselors and pastors.

▪ To care for a family member, friend or pet

The decision was supported by multiple residents who have sent email and Facebook messages and contacted local officials by phone to ask for the stay-at-home order. The Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce also voiced its support for the move, Rich told the commissioners in a virtual meeting Tuesday.

People who violate the order won’t be arrested, but if they continue to ignore it, there might be “stronger conversations,” Rich said.

“The goal isn’t to have law enforcement going out and writing tickets or arresting people. We’re engaging them, and that’s why the sheriff is part of the conversation. It’s more of an educational process,” Rich said. “If law enforcement sees groups of people, they’re going to say hey, you need to break it up, here’s the rules now.”

COVID-19 CASES GROWING

North Carolina was reporting more than 500 cases of coronavirus Wednesday morning.

Twenty-nine people had been hospitalized so far, and two deaths have been reported. One death reported in Cabarrus County involved a person in their late 70s with underlying medical conditions, according to a state news release. The other involved a Virginia resident in their 60s who was traveling through the state.

At least five North Carolina communities have ordered their residents to stay home: Durham, Mecklenburg, Madison and Pitt counties, and the town of Beaufort.

N.C. Gov. Roy Cooper already has closed schools, some restaurant services, bars, and other businesses, including gyms, salons, yoga studios, and entertainment venues. He also banned gatherings of over 50 people; stay-at-home orders supplanted that ban.

 

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