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Stay-At-Home Order Begins As Daily COVID Cases Surge Past 7K

A sign directs customers to remain in their cars at Trophy Brewing on Morgan Street in Raleigh, N.C. on Sunday, March 22, 2020.
Ben McKeown

The new stay-at-home order from Governor Roy Cooper meant to limit gatherings and the spread of coronavirus goes into effect this evening. Under the order, bars, restaurants and most retailers must close by 10 p.m. Residents are expected to stay home between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m., except for work, or to get essentials like food and medicine. Some businesses including gas stations, supermarkets and pharmacies are permitted to stay open.

Impact On Businesses

Cooper has said that both dining out and informal gatherings have contributed to the spread of COVID-19. If COVID trends don't improve, Cooper said he would implement further restrictions for businesses — like stricter limits on indoor dining.

For now, many business owners like Shawn Stokes of Luna Rotisserie in Durham, are frustrated by this new executive order. His restaurant is generally closed by 10 p.m., but he believes the governor's curfew perpetuates the idea that restaurants are the driving force behind the recent surge in COVID-19 cases.

“If he thinks that's the best bet based on the data and the science that he's looking at, then I'd say it's way past time to offer some financial support for us so we can weather this,” said Stokes. “Otherwise, I think you're ultimately going to see a degradation of your independent restaurants in the state.”

Despite the new rules, law enforcement officers are more likely to use violations of the executive order as teaching moments rather than make arrests. Ran Northam, a spokesman for the Chapel Hill Police Department, acknowledged this stance.

“We’re going to lead with education, save enforcement for egregious and repeat offenders, and really our community has already done an incredible job in responding to asks for compliance, whether before the fact or if something is seen,” said Northam.

Record Breaking Case Numbers

The new rules come into effect as the state Department of Health and Human Services is reporting another record high number of new daily COVID-19 cases.

Today 7,540 new cases were reported, breaking the previous record by more than a thousand cases. Reported COVID-19 hospitalizations also continue to increase with 2,514 hospitalizations reported today.

State Health Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen said in a statement that North Carolina is now seeing the impact of Thanksgiving gatherings. She urged North Carolinians to wear a mask, wash your hands and wait six feet apart.

Will Michaels is WUNC's Weekend Host and Reporter.
Jay Price has specialized in covering the military for nearly a decade.
Celeste Gracia covers the environment for WUNC. She has been at the station since September 2019 and started off as morning producer.
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