A “stay at home” order will go into effect for all of Wake County at 5 p.m. Friday.
Wake County Commissioners Chair Greg Ford issued the order Thursday as the county escalates its response to the coronavirus pandemic.
All of the mayors of Wake County’s 12 cities and towns signed on to the agreement.
Wake County’s order limits movement outside people’s homes except for essential jobs and tasks, mostly related to health and food. It will remain in effect until April 17 but could be revised.
“If we’re serious about protecting our community, we need to get serious about staying at home, so we can slow the spread of COVID-19,” Ford said. “That’s why we moved swiftly to implement this measure. Our short-term sacrifices can mean very literally the difference between life and death for some of our residents – and it would be irresponsible not to act.”
The order comes on the heels of other orders from other cities and counties in North Carolina.
Both the city of Durham and Orange County have announced “stay at home” orders within the last 48 hours. Other large counties like Mecklenburg and Guilford have issued similar orders.
The county has 100 people with reported cases of COVID-19, Wake County Manager David Ellis said, but the real number of cases is likely higher. Wake County announced a shift in its plan to combat the virus. If a person has mild symptoms and is otherwise healthy, they will likely not be tested, instead told to isolate themselves to stop the spread.
North Carolina’s first case was reported in Wake County. Since then, at least three people have died in North Carolina from COVID-19. There are more than 700 confirmed cases in the state.
“The exponential growth has put an incredible strain on (other) communities,” Ellis said. “In Wake County, our hospitals have about 1,700 beds. About 60 to 70% are in use at any given time. You can do some basic math; you can quickly see we can run out of beds if we saw the same type of exponential growth as is occurring in other communities.”
A former teacher and principal, Ford said he’s spent his lifetime encouraging people to do their civic duty “by getting out in the community and getting engaged.”
“Now it is clear that our civic duty to ourselves and each other is to stay at home,” he said. “This virus plays on strengths. Our social nature and our connectedness as a community. Isolating ourselves is not in our nature. This is exactly what we need to do to suppress this virus within our community today.”
People can read the order at wakegov.com/covid19.
What it means
Businesses will be allowed to remain open if they are deemed essential. Those include grocery stores, pharmacies, hardware stores, gas stations, hotels and motels, and health-care facilities. Restaurants still will be able to provide take-out and delivery options. Journalists and media companies are also exempt from closing rules and may continue operating.
Wake County’s order also exempts ABC stores. Jeff Strickland, spokesman for the N.C. ABC Commission, said barring an executive order from the governor, local ABC boards can decide whether to close or adjust their hours. Local governments also can specifically exempt ABC stores in their stay-at-home orders, he said.
Businesses unsure if they are considered essential can call Wake County at 919-856-7420 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. seven days a week.
The order bans any mass gatherings other than a person’s immediate family, Ellis said, but people may leave their homes to care for a family member or a friend.
“Do not go for a walk with your neighbor, schedule a play date for your children or visit a friend,” Wake County’s website says. “The only exceptions are for family members and roommates who share a single household.”
People of any age with medical conditions should not leave their homes unless it is to get medical care. And public transportation should only be used if necessary. Residential and commercial construction and landscaping may continue as long as social distancing is observed.
How will it be enforced?
People will not have to provide paperwork “proving” they are considered essential and law enforcement will not ask you for proof if you are traveling for essential purposes. Law enforcement officers will ask people outside “very politely” about what they are doing outside during routine patrols, said Wake County Sheriff Gerald Baker. There are no plans for road check points.
“I want to reiterate how serious of a situation that we are in,” he said. “…We just want to make sure you have a reason to be there, be out, because we don’t need anyone out who doesn’t need to be out.”
The cases in Wake County have doubled on average about every two-and-a-half days, said WakeMed Health and Hospitals President and CEO Donald Gintzig. The county must order people to stay at home to flatten the curve of the illness’ spread, helping the health-care system and Wake County’s most vulnerable people, he said.