Governor Roy Cooper has issued the closure of schools and some businesses statewide. He's also ordered restrictions for nursing homes and long-term care facilities as concerns over the coronavirus outbreak continue. As of now, Cooper hasn't announced a stay-at-home order statewide.

Multiple municipalities across the state, including the city of Winston-Salem, Forsyth County, and Guilford County are issuing their own to help slow the spread of COVID-19.  So what does that really mean? 


Why are local governments putting these stay-at-home measures in place?

They're designed to keep people away from others as much as possible over the next 2 to 3 weeks, which they say will help people maintain the six-foot social distancing guidelines from federal and state health officials and avoid large crowds. Officials say it's really in place to try to protect the healthcare system.


What are people allowed to do?

These orders are similar in many communities. You can still go to the grocery store, pharmacy, get gas, and go to doctor's appointments if needed. People are urged to call their doctor first to confirm. If you have to go to work, that's allowed. Exercising outside is also still permitted, but social distancing requirements must be followed.

Spring break is coming up and many people are wondering — can I go to my cabin or the beach if it's open? The answer, according to Winston-Salem officials, is that it's not a good idea. Some beaches are off-limits except to locals and they say to check with your destination because many already have restrictions in place. They say they've even canceled some of their own trips.

Assistant City Manager Damon Dequenne says they don't recommend unnecessary travel right now.

You are not locked into your home. There's no martial law where the police are going to be rolling down your street asking you what you're doing and why you are doing it," says Dequenne. "It's an order to remind the community about social distancing and to limit your trips out only to those that are essential.”


What businesses are considered essential?

It can vary depending on where you are located and we'll more than likely see additional closings for businesses as these orders go into effect. Those considered essential would be places like grocery stores, gas stations, some daycare centers, medical facilities, and financial institutions. Other exemptions include laundromats, hardware stores, and businesses that provide agricultural services.

Municipalities are handling this on a case-by-case basis, as they field questions.

For example, car dealerships — it will depend on whom they supply. If they supply law enforcement vehicles or trades type vehicles, they could remain open. If it's a stationary or greeting card shop, they say no, because it's not deemed as essential right now.

It's best to call your local municipality for questions about your business. Some have hotlines and have posted more guidance on their website. What if you disagree about being an essential business? In Winston-Salem, we're told you can appeal to the mayor if you're not happy with closure. Local police will be responsible for enforcing the order.


How are these municipalities enforcing the orders?

Community leaders want people to take this seriously. Local police will start with dialogue and educating folks explaining the order. Winston-Salem officials say only the worst cases would get cited. If you are cited for not complying, the city says you could face up to a class 2 misdemeanor.

Emergency management officials say this is an unprecedented time, a situation they've never had to manage before. In the end, they're asking the community for voluntary compliance by minimizing trips and your exposure to others and practice sound social distancing in small groups, as well as practicing good hygiene right now.

Many of these stay-at-home or shelter-in-place orders, including Winston-Salem, will run through April 16th, or until officials modify them.

*Follow WFDD's Keri Brown on Twitter @kerib_news

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