Orange County, Chapel Hill and Carrboro have just declared state of emergencies in response to the ongoing COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic.
This announcement comes a few days after Governor Roy Cooper issued an executive order declaring a state of emergency for North Carolina.
Orange County Board of County Commissioners Chair Penny Rich said that declaring a state of emergency allows the county to operate services that are necessary and suspend other services.
"It's not to put panic into everyone, it's not to make people feel like there's any more of an emergency than there is," Rich said.
She said declaring a state of emergency allows the county to receive federal funding and open up an emergency operations center that will be manned 24/7.
"If people need us, and we need to help folks that are out and about, or stranded, or isolated, or people need food, the emergency operations center is able to help," Rich said.
For example, she said that although county commissioners are required by law to meet in public once a month, declaring a state of emergency allows them to waive this requirement.
Rich said boards throughout Chapel Hill, Carrboro and Hillsborough will be suspending meetings for the time being. She said that down the road, they will consider holding meetings online or through conference calls.
All Carrboro Town Council and advisory board meetings are cancelled until March 31, according to a state of emergency proclamation from Carrboro Mayor Lydia Lavelle. All Chapel Hill advisory board, commissions and Town Council meetings have also been cancelled until further notice.
Orange County, Chapel Hill and Carrboro will also be implementing several social distancing measures to help prevent the spread of coronavirus.
Beginning March 16, all Orange County libraries will be closed and recreation and programming actives will be suspended until further notice. The Chapel Hill Public Library and Chapel Hill Parks and Recreation facilities closed on March 13 and will remain closed until further notice.
“We regret the potential impact this will have on our residents, but we are following recommendations from our county health director, state and federal health officials,” Orange County Manager Bonnie Hammersley said in a press release. "County staff will monitor the situation closely and we will resume our normal operations as soon as circumstances allow us to do so."
To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.