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Coronavirus (COVID-19) Alert: New Restrictions on Wake County Businesses, Some Effective Immediately

March 23, 2020

On Sunday, March 22, 2020, the Chairman of the Wake County Board of Commissioners signed a new Proclamation of Emergency Restrictions (“Proclamation”) in response to COVID-19, closing certain businesses, prohibiting gatherings of 50 or more, imposing restrictions on nursing homes and other long term care facilities, and recommending temperature screenings for employers and retail establishments:  http://www.wakegov.com/covid19/Documents/03.22.20%20Proclamation%20of%20Emergency%20Restrictions.pdf.

Restrictions specific to nursing homes and similar facilities go into effect immediately.  All other restrictions go into effect at 8 a.m. on Monday, March 23. The restrictions are currently scheduled to expire on April 30.

Here are highlights of the restrictions:

  • All employers are recommended to enact temperature and respiratory screening prior to allowing employees to enter the workforce, and to allow alternative work arrangements for all employees.
  • All retail businesses are recommended to check customer temperatures and prohibit those with a fever greater than 100.4 from entering the establishment’s building, with exceptions in the discretion of the business operator for businesses providing essential commodities such as fuel, groceries, medications and other basic living essentials.
  • Certain businesses are prohibited from operating entirely, regardless of the number of people assembled in their business or workspace:
    • Fitness clubs, studios, and gyms;
    • Hair and tanning salons, and professional grooming businesses;
    •  Spa and massage facilities; and
    • Tattoo services.
  • All other businesses are prohibited from assembling 50 or more persons (including workers and guests) in a single room or space at the same time (with certain businesses excepted).
    • Many businesses already have been avoiding gatherings of 50 or more (recommended by the NCDHHS, March 16) and even 10 (recommended by the White House, March 16); but, prior to this Proclamation, only gatherings of 100 or more were prohibited in Wake County (NC Governor’s Executive Order # 117, March 14).
      • Excepted businesses include the following:
      • Healthcare and public health providers;
      • Grocery stores, convenience stores, and other retail food stores;
      • Food cultivation and agriculture;
      • Newspapers, television, radio, and other media;
      • Gas stations and auto-repair, and auto-supply facilities
      • Banks and financial institutions;
      • Hardware stores;
      • Plumbers, electricians, exterminators, and other service providers necessary to maintain safety, sanitation, and essential operation of residences;
      • Mailing and shipping services
      • Educational institutions for purposes of facilitating distance learning, provided social distancing of 6 feet is maintained;
      • Laundromats and dry cleaners;
      • Restaurants and food preparation facilities but only for delivery or carry out;
      • Businesses supplying products to individuals that work from home;
      • Airlines, taxis, and other private transportation providers;
      • Home-based care for seniors, adults, and children;
      • Residential facilities, including hotels, motels, shared rental units, and shelters;
      • Professional services such as legal and accounting services; and
      • Childcare facilities that enable employees exempted from the Proclamation to work, if the facilities provide care for 50 or fewer children and meet certain requirements; and
      • Certain other federally identified critical infrastructure or operations, and businesses conducting essential activities.
  • Nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and long term care facilities are subject to additional restrictions:
    • Owners, staff, administrators, contractors, and volunteers are prohibited from allowing residents, clients, or visitors to assemble in spaces that does not allow social distancing of at least 6 feet;
    • Visitors are prohibited unless: (1) the visitor is an adult; (2) the visitor visits only once per day; and (3) the visit is limited to the resident’s room.  This does not apply to end-of-life situations;
    • No visitor may enter without prior screening for COVID-19 signed and symptoms;
    • All visitors must provide identification, sign in and out, and provide contact information, and operators must maintain the visitors’ logs for 30 days; and
    • Staff and volunteers may not work in a facility without prior screening for COVID-19 signs and symptoms.
  • The use of publicly and privately-owned playground equipment is prohibited.  Use of open spaces, parks, greenways and trails is not prohibited.

Because the COVID-19 pandemic is a fluid situation, and because risks can be presented in a myriad of ways, it is important to analyze each situation on a case-by-case basis, to determine the appropriate course of action.

If you need help with your planning or working through scenarios that present themselves in your workplace, we are here to help.  For assistance, please contact Morningstar Law Group Associate Attorney Hank Gates (hgates@morningstarlawgroup.com or 919.590.0393) Morningstar Law Group Partner, Amie Flowers Carmack, (acarmack@morningstarlawgroup.com or 919.590.0394).