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ASHEVILLE – Gov. Roy Cooper declared a statewide ‘stay-at-home’ order for North Carolina at 4 p.m. on March 27 in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19. It will last 30 days, Cooper said, but may be extended.
Enforcement begins at 5 p.m. on Monday, March 30, he said. “It has the force of law,” Cooper added.
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In cases where local orders and the state executive order may differ, the “more restrictive” measure applies, according to State Emergency Management Director Mike Sprayberry.
The order explained: 3 things to know, including list of essential businesses
“Because no one is immune, because there is no vaccination, the best scientifically proven tool we have is keeping our physical distance and staying home,” Cooper said.
“What we do today can save lives in the weeks and months to come,” NC Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services Dr. Mandy Cohen said.
“I know this order may lead to even more hardship and heartache,” he said, and reiterated his intent to do everything in his power to soften the economic blow to the state.
The first unemployment benefit payments will go out next week, the governor added.
North Carolina joins 22 other states that have statewide orders in place. They differ broadly in details, but the directive is the same — stay home unless absolutely necessary.
Details of the order (story continues below):
Although the executive order doesn’t formally go into effect until March 31, Cooper urged North Carolina residents to begin following the guidelines immediately.
“This order directs you to stay home unless you need to leave for essentials, such as your job, food, medicine, outdoor exercise, or to help someone. It bans gatherings of more than 10 people and directs everyone to stay at least 6 feet away from each other,” Cooper said.
“The order allows essential services to continue, and directs that those businesses that need to remain open use a strong social distancing policy,” he said.
Sprayberry added that a “team of attorneys” worked on the terms of the executive order. A “frequently asked questions” document will also be made available to the public.
Cooper expects local law enforcement officers to “encourage people” to follow the terms of the executive order and hopes North Carolinians will do so voluntarily.
“If people continuously and flagrantly violate the order,” Cooper said, local officials will have the discretion to press charges.
A WNC perspective
Democratic NC House member Susan Fisher of Asheville said the extreme measure was appropriate given the rising rate of infection. As of the morning of March 27, NC had its fourth consecutive day adding 100 or more new cases, according to state health department data.
“I think everybody needs to take a close look at those numbers and see the strain it is going to put on our medical system if we don’t tamp things down further,” said Fisher.
Disagreement over economic impact
But despite the dire warnings from Cooper and health officials, the Republican leader of the Senate expressed doubt about the need for a shelter in place order.
President Pro Tem Phil Berger said there should be random testing to get a more exact sense of hospitalization and fatality rates.
“We owe it to the hundreds of thousands of newly unemployed North Carolinians to check the math,” Berger said in a statement issued by his office.
“If the true data supports the most stringent measures, then presenting that data to the public will increase compliance and confidence in government. If the data does not provide such support, then easing of current restrictions will be possible to do safely.”
Staff writer Joel Burgess contributed reporting to this article.
This story is breaking and will be updated as more information becomes available.
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