Statewide stay-at-home order in NC; quarantine ordered for some SC visitors: COVID-19 update

Mayor Royce Harper, a downtown Tabor City business owner, joins other socially connected merchants Friday displaying physical distancing while putting up red ribbons in a call for prayer that the COVID-19 crisis end as quickly as possible. (Deuce Niven, TLT)

By DEUCE NIVEN

tribdeuce@tabor-loris.com

     A stay-at-home order in response to the coronavirus COVID-19 crisis was issued by Gov. Roy Cooper on Friday, effective at 5 p.m. Monday, with strong encouragement to comply now.

     This post will cover these topics:

  • Statewide stay-at-home order in NC
  • Essential businesses
  • Quarantine order for visitors to SC
  • Visitors in Columbus
  • Fair Bluff closing town hall, curfew considered
  • Red ribbons in Tabor City

Statewide stay-at-home order in NC

     Responding to a growing number of positive test results for COVID-19 and growing calls from some in the medical community to take further action to slow the spread of the virus, Gov. Cooper announced a new executive order during a 4 p.m. news conference in Raleigh.

     Effective for 30 days, through April 29, the order also reduces the size of gatherings in the state to 10 people, and provides for essential businesses to continue to operate while prioritizing social distancing measures,” the governor said.

     The order has the force of law and will be enforced statewide, the governor said.

     “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.”

     Dr. Mandy Cowan, Secretary of North Carolina’s Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), said that order was necessary.

     “You really have to act decisively to protect the health and safety of our citizens,” Dr. Cowan said. “The data from Italy is sobering.”

     She admitted that the data is incomplete, buts said the need for action is urgent.

     “We do not have a complete picture,” Dr. Cowan said. “What we know is extremely worrisome. We are aggressively working to learn as much as possible.

     “At the same time we do not have the luxury of time. We must act quickly based on what we do know.”

     Too many sick at the same time could overwhelm the state’s medical system, Dr. Cowan said.

     Violating the order could lead to charges as a class 2 misdemeanor, but Gov. Cooper said he was hopeful for few if any arrests, with law enforcement asked to encourage compliance when encountering violations.

     “We want law enforcement to encourage people to abide by the law,” Cooper said. “For those who aren’t, if people continuingly and flagrantly violate the law, local law enforcement can charge and district attorneys can prosecute.

     “We hope it doesn’t come to that.”

     Maj. Russell Conway of the Tabor City Police Department, speaking earlier this week, said the agency was prepared for the order should it come down.

     “We’ve been in conference call meetings getting ready,” Conway said.

Essential businesses

     Essential businesses will continue to operate in North Carolina, the governor’s order said, with employees who are well allowed to report for work, including healthcare and public health operations, human service operations, governmental operations, and essential infrastructure operations will remain open.

     “Non-essential businesses and operations must cease,” the order said.

     Essential businesses include:

  • Businesses that meet social distancing requirements
  • Businesses and other agencies operating in the federal critical infrastructure sectors
  • Healthcare and public health organizations
  • Human service organizations that include long-term care facilities, child care facilities, family child care homes, residential settings and shelters, transitional facilities, and many other support services
  • Essential infrastructure operations including food and beverage production, distribution, construction, building and grounds management, utilities, telecommunications providers, local infrastructure for computing services, and more
  • Essential government operations
  • Stores that sell groceries and medicine
  • Food, beverage production and agriculture
  • Charitable and social services organizations
  • Religious entities
  • Media including newspaper, TV, film
  • Gas stations and businesses needed for transportation
  • Financial and insurance institutions
  • Home improvement, hardware and supply stores
  • Critical trades including plumbers, electricians, exterminators, cleaning and janitorial staff for commercial and governmental properties
  • Mail and shipping services
  • Educational institutions who use remote learning
  • Laundry services
  • Restaurants for consumption off-premise
  • Businesses that provide products for people to work from home
  • Supplies for COVID-19 essential businesses and operations
  • Transportation
  • Home based care services
  • Residential facilities and shelters
  • Professional services including lawyers, accountants, insurance providers
  • Manufacture, distribution and supply chain for critical products and industries
  • Defense and military contractors
  • Hotels and motels
  • Funeral services, though they are limited by gathering size and social distancing regulations
  • Other COVID-19 essential services

Quarantine order for visitors to SC

     Appearing to address concerns that residents of New York and other COVID-19 hotspots in the country are seeking refuge in South Carolina, including Horry County, Gov. Henry McMaster Friday issued an order requiring that anyone from those “hotspots” quarantine for at least 14 days after arriving in the Palmetto State.

     Gov. McMaster has not issues a statewide stay-at-home order, and said he was reluctant to do so.

     Violating the quarantine law is a criminal act, McMaster said, identifying New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and the City of New Orleans in Louisiana specifically as COVID-19 hotspots.

     His order came just a day after Myrtle Beach, North Myrtle Beach, and Horry County enacted local orders effective this weekend effectively shutting hotels and most amusements in those municipalities and unincorporated areas of the county.

     Gov. McMaster was asked about an opinion from the South Carolina Attorney General Friday that said only the governor, not local governments have such broad executive powers under state law. The governor did not directly answer that question during his news conference in Columbia, but seemed supportive of the local orders.

     Gov. McMaster said his orders were in support of public safety.

     “We are following the science, and the data, and the knowledge and experience of the experts,” McMaster said.

Columbus visitors

     North Carolina has not issued a quarantine order for out-of-state visitors, though there are clearly some staying, or planning to stay in the county’s motels, hotels and campgrounds, Columbus County Health Director Kim Smith said.

     None of those operators has sought advice from the Health Department, Smith said.

     She said those operators should encourage the six-foot social distancing regulations, and suggested that those operators ask visitors where they have been.

     One group of visitors has prompted some questions, but no concern from Smith, she said.

     An amusements company, the same one hired for the Columbus County Fair each fall, has found itself out of work because of the COVID-19 crisis, Smith said. An official of the Columbus County Law Enforcement Officers Association asked her several weeks ago about allowing the company to set up camp at the county fairgrounds.

     “They are staying in place,” Smith said. “They have a chuck-wagon type kitchen, the owner is supplying all the food, they are keeping to themselves and are not a problem.

     “They are doing the right thing.”

     Smith said she has other concerns.

     “I’m not worried about those folks at the fairground,” Smith said. “It’s the people up and down 74-76 and they stop at the exit, the buy food and the drive through, they stop at a store. I don’t know where they’ve been, how long they were there, if they are ill. I don’t know that.”

     “Common sense,” Smith said, including hand washing, social distancing, and other recommended safety measures remains the best advice. That includes staying home, with or without the force of the governor’s order.

Fair Bluff closing town hall, curfew considered

     Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Fair Bluff Town Hall will be closed to the public until further starting at 5 p.m. today Friday, Mayor Billy Hammond said.

     Hammond said that even though the doors will be locked, the town hall will be staffed from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (except noon to 1 p.m.) weekdays and that citizens with questions can call 910-69-7426.

     Residents can pay utility bills by telephone or through the town drobox. Telephone payment can be made by debit or credit card and the town is waiving the usual credit/debit card convenience fee during the pandemic.

     The town has not yet made a decision on whether to cancel its scheduled April 7 board of commissioners’ meeting, but elected officials and Police Chief Chris Chafin are considering imposing a curfew because of recent problems, about which Hammond would not be specific. – Allen Turner, The News Reporter

Red ribbons in Tabor City

     Socially together, but maintaining the recommended six-feet of physical distance, a group of downtown business operators placed red ribbons on light poles and at The Town Gate Friday afternoon.

     “The ribbons are provided by Bringing Back Main,” business owner and group organizer Pam Byrd said.

     Byrd said the ribbons represent prayer for the town and the nation in the face of the COVID-19 crisis that will has already shuttered some businesses, and will close more next week as Gov. Roy Cooper’s statewide state-at-home order takes effect.

     “We look forward to the day that we take these ribbons down,” Byrd said.

     Look for continuing coverage on local impacts from the coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak here and in the Tabor-Loris Tribune in print and online.