North Carolinians must remain at their homes "or current places of abode" except for “performing essential work and essential activities” starting at 5 p.m. Monday, March 30, under an order signed Friday by Gov. Roy Cooper to help slow the spread of the coronavirus.

The stay at home order is valid through April 29, 2020, but can be revised or extended.

Cooper's order also closes all businesses or other operations not among those listed as “essential” starting at 5 p.m. Monday.

The order bans all mass gatherings of more than 10 people statewide, but says gatherings of up to 50 people are allowed for funerals “in an effort to promote human dignity and limit suffering.'

The mayors of Wilkesboro, North Wilkesboro and Ronda on Wednesday approved a prohibition on mass gatherings of 10 or more people and didn't exclude funerals. Local orders must be followed if more restrictive, stated a question and answer section on the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) website.

The Q&A said religious gatherings are subject to the mass gathering ban and therefore may not have over 10 people. They're also subject to the prohibition on gatherings of 10 or more in the three Wilkes towns.

“Places of worship are encouraged to stream their services online,” the Q&A said. Weddings and group counseling sessions may not have over 10 people.

The Q&A said Cooper is seeking voluntary cooperation with the order but “if voluntary cooperation is not achieved, state and local law enforcement officers have the authority to enforce the order.” Violation of the order is a class 2 misdemeanor.

A spokesman for the Wilkes Sheriff’s Office said Wilkes residents with questions about the order wishing to ask someone locally can call the sheriff’s office at 336-903-7600 and are asked to not call 911.

“Stay at home” explained

The DHHS Q&A said “stay at home” means “people should stay at their residences and limit social interactions and travel for essential activities or essential business purposes.” The Q&A said that under the order, people may leave their homes:

• to care for a family member or friend or help them get essential goods or receive necessary health care. “Individuals should not visit with friends or family members if there is no urgent need;”

• receive necessary medical care. “If you have symptoms of COVID-19, follow guidance provided by DHHS. If you have mild symptoms, stay home and call your doctor;”

• for outdoor recreational activity, such as walking pets and jogging. Group exercise is allowed if no more than 10 people are present and adequate social distancing is maintained;

• if a residence is unsafe, such as due to domestic violence, people are urged to leave and stay at a safe alternate location;

• go to public parks and open outdoor recreation areas while following social distancing and mass gathering guidelines. Public playgrounds and their equipment are closed for use statewide.” (The Wilkesboro, North Wilkesboro and Ronda town parks are closed under local orders announced Wednesday.)

“You may visit a hospital or other healthcare facility only to obtain health care services and supplies. Do not visit a nursing home, skilled nursing facility, residential care facility or any other long term care facility unless it is an end-of-life visit,” the Q&A said.

"Essential activities"

The order defines “essential activities” as those needed:

• for the health and safety of people and pets;

• to obtain necessary supplies such as groceries and food, household consumer products, to work from home and for autos;

• to perform work at businesses authorized to remain open under the order or carry out activities allowed under the order;

• to care for or transport a family member, friend or pet. This includes attending weddings and funerals;

• to travel to and from places of worship;

• to receive goods and services provided by an essential business or operation;

• to travel between one's residence for child custody or visitation arrangements;

• to volunteer with organizations that provide charitable and social services.

No documentation needed

Businesses and operations deemed essential under the order don’t need documentation from the state to continue operations and their employees aren’t required to have documentation to report to work under the order, stated the DHHS Q&A.

If a person believes a business or operation is essential but isn’t listed as “essential,” an application can be submitted to the N.C. Department of Revenue for receiving this status. A point of contact and procedures for businesses seeking an “essential” designation will be posted on the 

The Q&A said businesses required to cease all activities can still continue “minimum basic operations.” These include “activities necessary to maintain the value of the business’s inventory; preserve the condition of the business’s physical plant and equipment; ensure security; process payroll and employee benefits, or related functions; and activities to support employees working remotely.”

"Essential businesses, operations"

Listed in Cooper’s order as “essential businesses and operations” and therefore eligible to remain open are:

• healthcare and public health operations, including for veterinary care;

• human services operations;

• infrastructure operations, including construction, utilities, flood control, solid waste and recycling collections, video and telecommunication systems and others;

• food and beverage production, distribution, fulfillment centers, storage facilities;

• construction operations;

• governmental operations, as determined by each government body. (The order doesn’t apply to federal government operations;)

• stores selling groceries and medicine;

• food, beverage production and ag operations, including farming, livestock, fishing, forestry and other production agriculture. It also includes baking;

• those providing charitable and social services;

• religious entities;

• media, including newspapers, TV, radio, film and other media services;

• gas stations and other businesses needed for transportation;

• those that provide food, shelter, services and other necessities for animals, including animal shelters, rescues, kennels and adoption facilities;

• financial and insurance institutions;

• home improvement, hardware and supply stores;

• building and construction tradesmen;

• mail, shipping, logistics, delivery and pick-up services;

• educational institutions, but the order doesn’t supersede an earlier closure of public schools;

• laundromats, dry cleaners and industrial laundry services;

• restaurants or other operations for food consumption off-premises;

• those selling, manufacturing or supplying products needed for people to work from home or what other essential businesses and operations need to operate;

• public and private transportation services;

• home-based care, services, facilities or shelters;

• professional services, such as legal, accounting, insurance, engineering, architectural, surveying, real estate and tax preparation services;

• manufacturers, distributors and supply chain companies producing and supplying essential products and services;

• defense and military contractors;

• hotels and motels;

• funeral homes;

• retailers selling or servicing cell phones, computers, tablets and other communications technology;

• lawn and garden equipment stores;

• book stores selling educational material;

• beer, wine and liquor stores;

• retail functions of gas stations and convenience stores;

• pet and feed stores.

Although not mentioned in Cooper’s order, the DHHS Q&A said gun stores and golf courses implementing social distancing requirements for employees and customers as defined in the order may remain open.

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