RALEIGH — North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper issued a statewide stay-at-home order for 30 days last week, and enforcement begins at 5 p.m. Monday.
It bans gatherings of more than 10 people and directs everyone to stay at least six feet away from each other. Remember to wash your hands frequently.
The order allows essential services to continue and directs that those businesses that need to remain open use a strong social distancing policy.
“These are tough directives, but I need you to take them seriously,” Cooper said.
This order directs you to stay home unless you need to leave for essentials, such as your job if it has been deemed essential, food, medicine, outdoor exercise or to help someone.
Guidelines for parks: “Unless your local jurisdiction has closed parks, people may go to public parks and open outdoor recreation areas while following social distancing and mass gathering guidelines. Public playgrounds and their equipment are closed for use statewide.”
Cough into your elbow. And if you feel sick and have mild symptoms, stay home and call your doctor.
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“Even if you don’t think you have to worry about yourself, consider our nurses, doctors, custodial staff and other hospital workers who will be stretched beyond their capacity if we are unable to slow the spread of this disease,” Cooper said. “Consider your family and friends you may infect if you are carrying the virus. We need to keep them safe.”
North Carolina is now considered by the CDC to have widespread transmission, meaning that some people who have tested positive don’t know how they got it.
They didn’t travel anywhere. They weren’t in contact with another known positive. But now they find themselves sick with this virus.
Because no one is immune and there is no vaccination, the best scientifically proven tool we have to slow the spread is keeping our physical distance and staying at home.
“I know this order may lead to even more hardship and heartache,” Cooper said. “Many of you are already doing what you’re supposed to, even though that means that you’re isolated, or you might have lost your job.”
Cooper thanked the public for doing the right thing by trying to combat COVID-19.
Mecklenburg, Cabarrus and Gaston counties already have stay at home orders in effect. If there’s a difference between county and state rules where you are, you’re expected to follow the stricter rules.
North Carolina has had more than 200,000 unemployment claims filed, with most of them citing this pandemic. The first COVID-19 unemployment benefits will be paid early next week.
“I’m fighting for federal and state help for workers, their families and businesses,” Cooper said. “We will not forget those who have lost their livelihoods in this crisis.”
Data coming out of Italy and China is sobering. In Italy, 29% of people who tested positive for COVID-19 had severe or critical illness. In China, it was 19%, said Mandy Cohen, secretary of NCDHHS.
Early data from the US paints a similarly concerning picture. The CDC estimates that between Feb. 12 and March 16, between 21 to 31 percent of people who tested positive for COVID-19 in the US were hospitalized with 4 to 11 percent in intensive care.
“While these early studies don’t give us the complete picture of the virus – they are certainly extremely worrisome,” Cohen said. “We are aggressively working to learn as much as possible about this virus across the country and here in North Carolina. At the same time, we don’t have the luxury of time. We must act quickly based on what we do know to slow the spread of the virus.”
Both the North Carolina Medical Society and the North Carolina Healthcare Association, which represent doctors and hospitals across the state, have warned about potential shortages of supplies, equipment and hospital beds.
In Union County, Hilltop was not a drive-thru restaurant but these days, the owner is making sure it is so they stay open.
"I've been here, at this location, for 31 years," owner Spiro Kaltsounis said.
He’s seen his business’ ups and downs.
“This is the worst ever. The worst thing I've ever seen in my life," he said.
He hopes the state’s order to stay at home doesn’t cripple business more.
William Hilton runs a family-owned vineyard and wine shop.
"Sold enough wine so that I can keep going like that for a while but eventually, that will run out, as you can see, there is nobody here," Hilton said.
Magdalena Krajawska is a professor at Wingate University, and she is not sure how her life will change on Monday.
“Of course, it’s gonna be inconvenient but if it will helps flatten the curve and slow the spread, then it’s the right thing to do,” she said.
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