CHARLOTTE — North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper unveiled a modified stay-at-home order earlier this week that requires the state’s roughly 10.5 million residents to remain off the streets between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. -- the first of such restrictions since Memorial Day.
The executive order that took effect on Friday orders bars, restaurants, entertainment venues and personal care businesses closed by 10 p.m., though grocery chains and some retailers that sell groceries will be allowed to operate within the seven-hour window.
On-site alcohol sales at bars must end by 9 p.m.
Cooper announced the order Tuesday at a news conference with North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen. It will stay in place until Jan. 8.
“We already have strong safety protocols and capacity limitations in place -- including a statewide mask requirement. With this additional action beginning Friday, we hope to get these numbers down,” Cooper said. “Our new modified stay-at-home order aims to limit gatherings and get people home where they are safer, especially during the holidays. It’s also a reminder that we must be vigilant the rest of the day -- wearing a face mask when we are with people we don’t live with, keeping a safe distance from others and washing our hands a lot.”
The order requires restaurants, bars, entertainment venues and personal care businesses to close at 10 p.m. and allows them to reopen at 5 a.m. Businesses must also stop selling alcohol for onsite consumption at 9 p.m. -- two hours earlier than the previous curfew of 11 p.m.
The cutoff also means no 24-hour gyms can operate between those times in North Carolina.
Live entertainment performances, movie screenings and youth sports must end by 10 p.m. Professional and college sports can last past that time.
Restaurants can stay open past 10 p.m. if they’re doing take-out only. But inside dining has to end.
Cooper hinted at further restrictions if the spread does not slow.
“Let me be clear: We will do more if our trends do not improve,” the Democratic governor said. “That means additional actions involving indoor restaurant dining, entertainment facilities or shopping and retail capacity. None of us wants that.”
Tuesday’s news conference follows a week in which the number of positive COVID-19 cases surpassed 6,000 for the first time and an almost daily new record of hospitalizations.
“The virus is upon us with a rapid viciousness we haven’t seen before,” Cooper said.
The order will require people to stay home between the hours of 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. Traveling to and from work and leaving home to get food, medical care, fuel or social services is not included in the curfew.
North Carolinians can also go out during those hours to take care of a family member.
Workers may remain onsite at closed businesses to stock, do bookkeeping and other necessary business after 10 p.m. According to the order, people are not required to show documentation that they fall within an exception to the modified stay-at-home order.
Retail businesses that sell groceries, medication, fuel or health care supplies do not have to close at 10 p.m.
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Because the order is in effect through the first week of January, it’s safe to assume there will not be any public New Years Eve events in North Carolina.
“Your actions can keep people from getting sick, save lives, and make sure our hospitals can care for people whether it’s for a heart attack or a car accident or COVID-19. Protect yourself, your loved ones, and your community now,” Cohen said.
The modified stay-at-home-order comes after a series of gradual restrictions set in place by the governor. On Nov. 10, the indoor-gathering limit was reduced to 10 people. On Nov. 24, Cooper extended North Carolina’s Phase 3 Executive Order to Dec. 11, one week after it was set to expire.
Mask-wearing policies were tightened weeks ago, asking everyone to wear a mask at all times when indoors in public places.
As for enforcement of the curfew, Charlotte-Mecklenburg police said they won’t be setting up checkpoints or randomly stopping people between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. But if officers come across people during their normal duties in those hours, you may be questioned about compliance with the order.
As for businesses, CMPD will continue to conduct inspections of businesses primarily as it relates to complaints they get.
Q: What remains the same under this order?
A: The gathering limits remain at 10 people for indoor settings and 50 individuals for outdoor settings.
The limitations on certain businesses, sanitation standards, and other public health restrictions outlined in the Phase 3 Executive Order and NCDHHS Guidance remain in effect.
A face covering is still required in all public indoor settings if there are nonhousehold members present, regardless of the person’s ability to maintain social distance.
Face coverings continue to be required in public outdoor settings if individuals are unable to maintain six feet of social distance from non-household members.
Retail business locations with more than 15,000 square feet of interior space must continue to have a worker at each entrance open to the public, who is responsible for enforcing the executive orders’ face covering and capacity limitations.
Q: Does this order close any business completely?
A: No. This Order temporarily requires certain businesses to close their premises to the public from 10:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m., during the Night-Time Public Closure Period. Establishments may remain open during those hours for workers, and may otherwise conduct their business and operations, as long as no guests are admitted onto the premises.
Q: When must a restaurant stop serving food to its patrons?
A: Restaurants, like other businesses subject to the Night-Time Public Closure Period, must close at 10:00 p.m. Restaurants must stop taking orders from patrons for on-premise dining at a time that enables them to close for on-premise consumption at 10:00 p.m. Restaurants may continue to offer take-out and delivery services during the Night-Time Public Closure Period.
Q: May customers come inside a restaurant to pick up take-out orders?
A: Yes. Customers may enter restaurants, breweries, distilleries, and wineries to pick up take-out orders after 10:00 p.m. Customers must wear a face covering and practice social distancing.
>> In the video below, reporter Joe Bruno talks to local restaurant owners about how his business has evolved to keep patrons safe.
Cooper’s directive aims to slow the spread of the coronavirus at a time when the state’s hospitals face an increased risk of being overrun.
For the sixth day in a row and 11 of the last 12 days, North Carolina has hit new highs in current COVID-related hospitalizations. Data posted on Tuesday from the state Department of Health and Human Services show nearly 2,400 people are hospitalized due to coronavirus. This represents a doubling of hospitalizations over the last month.
Cases, the percentage of tests coming back positive and deaths are also sharply rising.
In the past week, North Carolina’s case count has broken single-day records on three separate days, including crossing more than 6,000 cases per day on two of those days. Just a month ago, cases were under 3,000 per day.
In recent days, the percent of tests returning positive has increased to more than 10%. Health officials want that metric to be at around 5%.
During the news conference, Cohen gave an update on North Carolina’s COVID-19 County Alert System map. The number of red counties (critical community spread) has more than doubled since Nov. 23. There are now 48 red counties compared to the 20 red counties announced two weeks ago. Thirty-four counties -- including Mecklenburg County -- have substantial community spread, placing them in the orange category.
“I’m very worried. This is a global pandemic,” said Cohen. “This virus is highly contagious and dangerous, but we can slow it down. Do not wait until it is you or your loved one who is sick with COVID to wear mask.”
Breakdown of where counties stand in our area:
- Red: Anson, Avery, Alexander, Cabarrus, Caldwell, Catawba, Cleveland, Gaston, Iredell, Lincoln, Richmond, Rowan, Union and Watauga
- Orange: Ashe, Burke, Mecklenburg and Stanly
- Yellow: None
Avery County has the highest percent positive rate in the state at 20.1%. Graham County has the lowest percent positive rate at 2.4%
With Tuesday’s report, more than 80% of the state’s counties fall into the red or orange tier. Cohen said she is very worried about the direction the state’s trends are heading and encouraged people to get tested and adhere to the 3W’s.
Both Cooper and Cohen warned the current spike in cases does not include an expected surge from Thanksgiving, but instead reflects the spread of the virus heading into the holiday weekend. According to Cohen, the 6,000 daily cases were likely the people who attended Thanksgiving dinners not yet knowing they were infected and exposed other people.
“We’ll do more if our trends don’t improve,” Cooper said. “That could mean additional actions involving indoor restaurant dining, entertainment facilities or retail capacity. None of us want that. All these small businesses need more federal help. Congress and the President need to do that now.”
The governor is discouraging traveling and gathering for upcoming holidays unless it’s absolutely necessary. If you do decide to gather, Cooper and Cohen asked that you get a test beforehand and to keep the gathering outside or online.
In regards to vaccines, Cohen said North Carolina could have doses as early as next week. There are 11 facilities that have the “ultra-cold” storage required for the Pfizer vaccine. Once the FDA authorizes the vaccine and the CDC gives the “OK,” 50 to 60 hospitals in the state will receive doses.
With a vaccine on the horizon, Cooper said North Carolinians must keep up good practices to remain safe.
”I know that news of effective and safe vaccines has given us all hope, but vaccines aren’t here yet,” said Cooper. “We have to act now to save lives, safeguard our hospital capacity and preserve our economy.”
He made it clear that further action would be taken to slow the spread of the virus if trends do not improve. That could require further limiting of restaurant dining, indoor entertainment or shopping and retail capacity restrictions, among other safety protocols.
Trajectory in COVID-Like Illness (CLI) Surveillance Over 14 Days
- North Carolina’s syndromic surveillance trend for COVID-like illness is increasing.
Trajectory of Confirmed Cases Over 14 Days
- North Carolina’s trajectory of cases is increasing.
Trajectory in Percent of Tests Returning Positive Over 14 Days
- North Carolina’s trajectory in percent of tests returning positive is increasing.
Trajectory in Hospitalizations Over 14 Days
- North Carolina’s trajectory of hospitalizations is increasing.
In addition to these metrics, the state continues building capacity to adequately respond to an increase in virus spread in testing, tracing and prevention.
- Testing capacity is high, surpassing 50,000 tests per day for much of the past week.
- The state is continuing to hire contact tracers to bolster the efforts of local health departments.
- There have been more than 500,000 downloads of the exposure notification app, SlowCOVIDNC.
Personal Protective Equipment
- North Carolina’s personal protective equipment (PPE) supplies are stable.
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