On Thursday at 6 p.m., Durham starts a new life under stay-at-home restrictions, with Orange County joining on Friday and Wake County expected to quickly follow.
So what does this mean? Can I still get groceries, go jogging, buy a book, change my oil? Yes, yes, yes and yes. But it’s complicated. Here is a breakdown of how Durham Mayor Steve Schewel’s Wednesday announcement will change your routine. In other parts of the Triangle, the rules are the same.
▪ Food. Grocery sales are considered essential business and all stores that sell them can remain open, though social-distancing space is urged while shopping. Schewel exempted any store selling “critical products,” which would include convenience stores and mom-and-pops.
▪ Medicine. Pharmacies can stay open and prescriptions can be picked up. Doctors’ office visits are all OK, though many have already advised “telemedicine” rather than office visits for non-emergencies. Schewel said many dentists’ offices have halted routine cleanings but emergency oral care is allowed.
▪ Restaurants. Food establishments can remain open for take-out orders and delivery only.
▪ Transportation. Gas stations can operate along with any auto supply stores or mechanics. Bicycles are also considered critical transportation, though Schewel said they have asked that repairs by done “curbside,” or by drop-off. Airlines, taxis and other ride services will still work.
▪ Recreation. Team and contact sports are prohibited. No basketball on public courts. Walking, hiking and running are encouraged, but be mindful of social spacing. Golf courses and tennis courts can operate as long as social distance is kept.
▪ Business. Any business deemed essential can stay open, including any of those mentioned above. Also banks, hardware stores, building and construction, mail delivery, food and other retail delivery, laundry, hotels and funeral service. Buying a new book is OK, Schewel said, as long as it gets mailed.
Businesses are allowed to keep minimum staff on the premises as necessary for inventory or payroll, but most should stay at home.
How do you know if you’re essential? Ask the mayor: Steve.Schewel@durhamnc.gov.
▪ Pets. Veterinarians are allowed but not groomers.
▪ Professional services. Those considered critical, such as work by attorneys and accountants, are allowed but services provided by phone or computer are preferred. Real estate is limited to appraisals and titles.
▪ Entertainment. Movie theaters, auditoriums, arenas, amusement parks and playground equipment are already off-limits. Public gatherings with fewer than 10 people are permitted as long as necessary space is left between people. Schewel invited poets and musicians to give daily public performances and readings online.
“This is our window for social distancing to work,” Schewel said. “If we’re going to stop the spread of the virus, this is our window.”
▪ What happens if I don’t? Durham’s order is legally enforceable, Schewel said. Nobody is going to get cited or arrested unless they persistently flout the law. But police can ask people to disperse.
▪ How can I help? Send a check to a friend or relative who is out of work. Offer to buy groceries for an elderly or vulnerable neighbor.
This is not a “shelter-in-place” order, which Schewel said can be associated with an active shooter and can “engender fear.”