Orange County is officially ordering residents to stay at home due to COVID-19.
The county already declared a state of emergency on March 13, and this is a measure to extend that declaration by urging residents to remain within their homes and limit non-essential travel.
Penny Rich, chairperson of the Orange County Board of Commissioners, said the order will go into effect this Friday at 6 p.m.
This doesn't mean you need to rush to get food. Residents will still be able to leave their homes to obtain essential services — like going to the grocery store — but are otherwise expected to not go outside. This move from Orange County comes after both the City of Durham and Mecklenburg County announced similar stay-at-home orders in recent days.
Rich said the county is asking law enforcement to partner with them to enforce the order.
"We're going to use them as an extension of county and town government to help us educate people on what staying six feet away from each other is, so physical distance, but also to make sure we don't have continuous, egregious offenders," she said.
Rich said the county is not looking to arrest anyone or give out tickets, but police will have the power to break up crowds and tell people to go home in order to keep citizens safe and healthy.
Restaurants that are still open will be able to operate under their current delivery and take-out models, but other nonessential businesses will have to suspend all in-person operations.
Rich said public transit will continue to run, but those who are not considered essential workers are strongly discouraged to use public transit.
"If you're not an essential worker and you don't have to be someplace, we're encouraging you not to get on the bus, and we're encouraging you to stay home," she said.
The order specifically asks residents to remain at home unless they are:
- Going to the doctor or veterinarian
- Grocery shopping for yourself or others (limit to one trip per week or less if possible)
- Going to the pharmacy
- Exercising outdoors
- Picking up takeout food or using the drive-thru
- Caring for a friend or family member
In the past few days, local school districts have partnered with nonprofits to distribute lunches to students who depend on school for their meals. Rich said these food drives will not be impacted by the order.
"Getting food to people that are hungry, getting medical supplies, you know, anything that falls under what it takes to exist is an essential service so it will not affect that," she said.
Anna Pogarcic is the editor-in-chief of The Daily Tar Heel. She is a senior at UNC-Chapel Hill studying journalism and history major.
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