Gov. Roy Cooper ordered all of North Carolina to stay at home, effective at 5 p.m. Monday. So we’re here now, but what does it all mean? You know the basics already, like it goes on until April 29 unless something changes dramatically in the meantime, and that it’s mandatory, and that you need to stay 6 feet away from people, etc.
With the help of the Executive Order the Governor issued, a handy-dandy FAQ the state produced, and some information gathered from news conferences, etc., we’ll break down the things that matter most to most of you right now.
1. Yes, you really do need to stay at home as much as you can
Only essential personnel at essential businesses should really be out and about right now. But that’s a little confusing, and we’ll get to that shortly. But for now, here’s the deal: Unless you NEED to leave your house, you really shouldn’t. And let’s put aside the fact that an order is in place right now, it’s just the smart thing to do. Things are getting worse, and the more you are out, the more exposure you give to you and your family. Just stay home. It’s way easier.
2. So, can I leave at all?
Technically, yes you CAN leave. Again, see No. 1 on how you shouldn’t, but you are allowed to leave your home. But you can only leave your home really under a couple circumstances. First, you are essential personnel (again, we’ll get to that) and have to get to your jobs. Second, you have a medical emergency that requires you to go to a hospital. Third, and you should limit this, but you need to utilize the goods or services of essential businesses. That’s pretty much it. And yes, we know it leaves a LOT of gray area. But the gray area is best filled in by this: You shouldn’t WANT to be out in this environment right now.
3. It’s time to kill that social life for a bit
While many of us are happy to be quietly hidden at home, we understand that’s not the case for everyone. You have places you like to go and friends you like to hang out with. We get it. (Though, we’re wondering why you didn’t invite us along before. Rude.) But now isn’t the time to really do that stuff for a bit. And it’s for your own good. Here’s what the FAQ had to say about it: “Individuals may leave their homes to care for a family member or friend, or to help their family member or friend get essential goods or receive necessary health care. Individuals should not visit with friends or family members if there is no urgent need.” Get it? That means it’s probably not a great time for a barbecue. This stuff is all over the place folks, avoid it.
4. If you are out, you don’t need to have proof of anything … but …
There’s nothing in the Executive Order that requires anyone to prove why they are out. The Governor made it very clear that this is really just a common sense thing. There is enforcement allowed by law enforcement if someone is being particularly stupid, but generally this is just a trust thing. The Governor has asked you to stay home for a good reason, and he’s hoping you’ll understand that and help anyone avoid the need for law enforcement.
5. So, what about this whole “essential personnel” thing?
There are a number of businesses deemed essential right now – and mostly they are pretty logical ones – and the people needed to operate those businesses are deemed “essential” right now. Again, no proof of this is being required (unless stuff gets really out of control), but if your employer is open, has asked you to work, and you’re willing and able to do so, you’re considered essential.
6. You keep avoiding the essential businesses thing, can you hurry up and get to it?
OK, sorry, this is where it gets a little complicated. So maybe we were trying to avoid it a little bit. There are some super obvious businesses here that everyone understands: Grocery stores, doctors and hospitals, pharmacies, veterinarians. Stuff like that. But this is when things get tricky. There are a number of other categories included here that some people debate the essential status of. ABC Stores, restaurants (for take-out, drive-through, or delivery), hardware stores, churches. Lots of gray area on all of these, but generally we can all mostly agree there’s a certain level of NEED involved in the things these places provide. But they are on the essential list, so regardless of whether you agree or not, they can be open.
7. Wait, you left a pretty important business category, child care …
Yes, I did. Because its even more difficult to debate. Child care providers are the biggest one probably. Here’s the thing: Many of our essential workers also have children that they can’t leave home alone. Child care centers become essential by default there. But it’s difficult to really keep kids from getting germs all over each other. So isn’t that just going to make all of this spread more? Yes, it’s possible. But the trade-off is that we can’t have the essential services. So our government has set up a system for those child care centers to meet some higher level procedures put in place by the NCDHHS to help minimize it. It’s definitely complicated. But child care centers CAN remain open if they are meeting those standards.
8. Churches are on the essential list, so that means I get to go, right?
Technically … yes. But more realistically, no. Your church can legally remain open as an essential business right now, but it also MUST follow the mass gatherings order in place. So that means you can’t have more than 10 people together. But let’s go back to No. 3 for a minute. You CAN go to things like small groups, etc., but it’s really just not the smartest idea right now. You can’t know where those other people have been, or who might be carrying coronavirus – even if they aren’t showing symptoms. So it’s really just a good idea to avoid it right now. You can do like some churches are doing and go to drive-in church services, or do some small groups on Zoom too. We all need a little comfort right now, so it’s understandable to want to go. Just be smart about this.
9. So stay inside all the time, no matter what, or bad things will happen?
OK, now you’re going a little off the deep end here. You can still go outside. Maybe repaint that fence. Maybe go for a walk in your neighborhood (but avoid parks right now, most are closed). Go get your groceries (see No. 10). Go to work if you have to. Just be smart about everything you’re doing. Avoid gatherings. Wash your hands a lot. It’s for your own good.
10. Groceries. Yeah, those things are complicated too.
We have to eat. So, you can continue to go buy your groceries. But here’s the thing: There are too many people going at the same time, and you have no idea who has what germs, and what they’ve been coughing on or touching. So be really, really smart if you’re doing this. There are fortunately some great work-arounds right now! Most stores have online order and pick up services now, and they are the BEST. Do all your shopping from your phone and the awesome employees at the store will bring it out to your car at your pick up time. Keep in mind that appointments for this are limited, so check the apps for your favorite store to see when you can schedule yours. Plan ahead a couple days and you should be fine. Oh, and restaurants are amazing right now. So many of them are staying open to help feed us. You can still order carry-out, drive-through, or delivery from many places (and we have a bunch listed on our site!). So there’s still lots of food options. Toilet paper, on the other hand …
11. What’s the point of all of this annoying stuff?
COVID-19 is a currently untreatable, powerful disease. Our hospital system is stretched pretty thin even without pandemics going on. If a whole lot of people end up severely sick at once, our hospitals can’t keep up with the demand. So the idea here is that we are doing this for the greater good. The fewer of us sick at the same time, the easier it will be to treat those who are sick. Our medical workers are true heroes right now, and we owe it to all of them to do what we can to make this easier on them. Plus, you just don’t know how catching the coronavirus will impact you or a loved one. So this is just a smart move all around for everyone. Help us slow the spread and we’ll all get through this faster, with a great appreciation for the people keeping our communities together.