There are a number of advantages to videoconferencing, but they apply in the best of times, not during a national public-health crisis.


Three members of the Southern Shores Town Council will meet Tuesday, April 7, at 3:30 p.m., at the Pitts Center for a meeting during which they will take up matters previously slated for the March 24 budget workshop, such as beach nourishment, capital street projects, possible no-left-turn summer weekends, and the town pay study.

The meeting will be limited to 10 persons, in accordance with emergency restrictions imposed by the State during the COVID-19 pandemic. The other Town Council members and the public will be able to participate remotely.

According to Town Clerk Sheila Kane, who spoke with The Beacon today, Mayor Tom Bennett and Mayor Pro Tem Elizabeth Morey will attend the meeting, as will Interim Town Manager Wes Haskett, Finance Director Bonnie Swain, and Ms. Kane herself.

Town Attorney Ben Gallop will be participating electronically, Ms. Kane said. She did not know who the third Town Council member would be to make up a quorum, but counting that person, six of the 10 maximum attendees have already been determined.

Neither the police chief nor the fire chief will be giving monthly reports, so there will be room at the Pitts Center for four citizens to attend on what Ms. Kane said would be a “first-come, first-serve” basis.

See the meeting agenda here:  https://www.southernshores-nc.gov/wp-content/uploads/minutes-agendas-newsletters/Agendas_2020-04-07.pdf

The public will be able to join the meeting electronically by using Zoom software through a computer or cellphone. You also may use your telephone to listen to the audio portion of the meeting, without the benefit of video.

According to a notice that was posted on the Town website today, you may join the meeting through Zoom by typing into your Internet browser the URL: https://zoom.us/j/612186193. The ID for the meeting is 612 186 193.

“If you have not used Zoom before, you are encouraged to download the application from their website at Zoom.us,” the Town notice instructs, “and try it out prior to the meeting.”

There is no cost involved with the software or with attending the meeting.

If you choose to join the meeting by telephone, you may call (253) 215-8782 or (301) 715-8592, and when prompted, enter the meeting ID number, 612 182 193, followed by the pound (#) sign. Long-distance charges will apply, as usual.

You will not be able to access the meeting by telephone until it has actually started, Ms. Kane said. You also will not be able to comment by telephone.


There will be the usual two public-comment periods during the meeting. You may submit your public comments to Ms. Kane before the meeting, and the Mayor will read them into the record, she said. You may email skane@southernshores-nc.gov or send them by U.S. mail. It would be best to email them by 3 p.m. on the meeting day.

You also may submit your comments via Zoom “chat” during the live public-comment period. As Ms. Kane explained, there will be a message board on the right side of your screen in which you can type in your comments and transmit them. The Mayor will read these comments aloud, as well.

In all cases, Ms. Kane requests that you include your name and address with your comments and limit them to three minutes, when read aloud.

See https://www.southernshores-nc.gov/southern-shores-town-council-meeting-april-7-2020-330-p-m/southern-shores-notice-electronic-participation-2/

All N.C. municipalities and schools are using the Zoom software to conduct electronic meetings during the COVID-19 crisis, Ms. Kane explained.

People who attend the meeting should keep a minimum distance of six feet from others before, during, and after the meeting. A recording of the meeting will be posted on the Town website “as soon as possible” after its conclusion.

The meeting packet will be available on the Town website by close of business tomorrow, according to Ms. Kane.

Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 3/31/20


CV test GENERIC 0010

No sooner had I published my last blog than I received notification from the Dare County Emergency Management that a second person in Dare County has tested positive for COVID-19.

According to the DCEM’s bulletin of today:

“The Dare County Division of Public Health has announced the second positive test result for COVID-19 in Dare County. The first positive test was reported on Wednesday morning, March 25. The two cases are not connected.

“’The individual has been self-isolating since being tested last week and continues to be monitored,’ according to Dr. Sheila Davies, Director of the Dare County Department of Health and Human Services. It is believed the individual acquired the virus through direct contact when out of the area. This is not a case of community spread. The individual’s spouse has also been tested but we have not yet received the test result.

“Similar to the first reported case, this case will not show up as a Dare County case with the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. Although the test was performed in Dare County, the individual did not provide a Dare County address when being tested. Dare County Department of Health and Human Services will not release further details about the individual to protect [his/her] privacy.

“In accordance with state guidelines for communicable disease reporting, Dare County Department of Health and Human Services staff is conducting an active investigation into this individual’s activity. Anyone who is determined to have had direct contact will be notified by public health staff.

“Dare County Department of Health and Human Services will continue to provide regular updates for our community regarding COVID-19. We appreciate the strong coordination between our agency, North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, Dare County Emergency Management, Outer Banks Hospital, and local healthcare providers to identify and manage any person who develops signs or symptoms consistent with COVID-19.

“It cannot be stressed enough how important it is for each of us to do our part by following the social distancing guidance and other recommendations from the CDC and NC DHHS for the protection of public health. Residents are encouraged to rely on credible sources for updated information regarding COVID-19. Visit the CDC website http://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus or NCDHHS at http://www.ncdhhs.gov/coronavirus. For information specific to Dare County, visit www.darenc.com/covid19.

“The Dare County COVID-19 Call Center is open Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. to help address your questions on COVID-19 and can be reached at 252.475.5008.”

Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 3/31/20



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A blooming dogwood on East Dogwood Trail is barely visible against the backdrop of this morning’s cloudy sky.

What a difference a day makes. From shorts and sandals to sweaters and warm jackets. From radiant sunshine to turbulent skies.

Forecasts show a coastal storm heading our way, arriving in the area tonight and likely peaking tomorrow morning. It is expected to bring heavy rainfall and strong north-northeast winds—on the order of 40 to 50 mph—that will cause rough surf and pose the threat of ocean overwash.

Soon we will be battening the hatches, as well as hunkering down. But we know this drill.

By now you probably have your own COVID-19 news update drill, too, in what people are calling our “new normal” life.

Besides the local media, I recommend The Raleigh News & Observer for a state roundup, and, not surprisingly, The Washington Post and The New York Times for national news. All three are offering free access to their coronavirus stories.

Dare County Emergency Management issues its daily bulletin by 1 p.m.  See https://www.darenc.com/departments/emergency-management/.

The N.C. Dept. of Health and Human Services daily updates its COVID-19 case count by 11 a.m. See https://www.ncdhhs.gov/divisions/public-health/coronavirus-disease-2019-covid-19-response-north-carolina.

Executive orders signed by Governor Roy Cooper and other news from the Governor’s Office generally are announced after noon and are readily available on the NCDHHS website.

The Governor’s latest executive order, announced yesterday, is No. 122. It is designed to help schools and local governments access state surplus property that they may need during the coronavirus emergency, such as protective equipment for healthcare workers and computers for schools.

See https://files.nc.gov/governor/documents/files/EO122-State-Surplus-Property.pdf.

As you undoubtedly know, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam issued a statewide Stay at Home order yesterday that was effective immediately and included the closure of all beaches, except for “fishing and exercise.”

We are fortunate to be on an island and to be able to better control access to our beaches. Their closure because of public irresponsibility would be a great loss.

The Virginia order is in effect through June 30, unless it is rescinded or modified.

Governor Northam, a pediatric neurologist who served in the U.S. Army Medical Corps, has been criticized for being slow to act, but a week ago at a press briefing, he made clear that he is basing his decisions on science and available medical/scientific data. After consulting with his coronavirus advisory group, he said he expects the new normal with COVID-19 to last months, not just weeks. That is his realistic assessment.

For updates from Virginia and Governor Northam, see https://www.virginia.gov/coronavirus/.

A friend who lives in Florida recently sent me a poem she had written titled “The Pandemic.” It’s made up of four-line stanzas and rather lengthy. She’s no Maya Angelou, but she is thoughtful and perceptive, as well as compassionate and altruistic. My favorite two lines are as follows:

“While sheltered in our homes we step back and give ourselves reprieve;

“To reflect on where we are as a nation, who we are as a people, and in what we believe.”

I would be delighted to publish poetry written about our current situation by any of you. I am not a poet, but I deeply appreciate the art form and welcome your contributions. Please send them to ssbeaconeditor@gmail.com. I will give you the copyright, of course.

The Beacon will keep you up to date with any breaking news about Southern Shores and with important county and state updates, but in the coming days, I also may try to entertain you with stories that you’re not seeing in other media.

Take care during the storm.

Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 3/31/20


CV test GENERIC 0010

Stay home. Stay healthy. Don’t cheat.

That is basically the common-sense message of today’s Dare County Emergency Management bulletin about COVID-19, Bulletin No. 20.

See https://www.darenc.com/Home/Components/News/News/6037/1483.

That Dare County felt compelled to issue it is a testament to the apparent lack of common sense being exercised.

It is also the message repeated on the Sunday morning talk shows by state governors, emergency physicians, medical reporters, and others commenting on the “stay at home” orders around the country: Don’t be non-compliant, they all urged. Don’t cheat.

“While the weather is beautiful,” the Dare County bulletin states, “and the therapeutic value of getting outside and enjoying the sunlight and fresh air is immeasurable, we ask everyone to respect the order that is in place and limit your travel.

“We cannot stress enough,” it continues, “that maintaining social distancing is one of the most effective tools we have to reduce the spread of COVID-19. For the safety of you, your family and our community, don’t make exceptions to this order of social distancing. Maintain at least six feet of separation from others (non-family members).”

While The Beacon does not wish to scold, we nonetheless have to wonder in which essential activities all of the drivers that we’ve seen traverse the year-round Southern Shores neighborhood are engaging. Is everyone coming and going to the grocery store? Are the trips they’re making absolutely necessary?

Earlier today, OBX Today reported that the Currituck County Sheriff’s Office has established a vehicle checkpoint at the Duck-Corolla line, where Currituck and Dare counties meet. Sheriff’s deputies may be asking similar questions.

The Town of Nags Head has updated its message to the public, saying it is “essential that the public voluntarily comply with the [stay at home] proclamations for them to be effective in mitigating the spread of COVID-19 in our community. Self-regulation and encouraging others, including friends, family and neighbors, is the most effective way to implement the proclamations.”

Nags Head also makes a request that would seem to be imperative for Southern Shores and other Dare beach towns to make. The Town asks that people not call 911 “if you see someone you perceive to be non-compliant with the proclamations. . . . Concentrate on what you can do for your family and yourself to remain healthy and safe.”

Non-compliance is for law enforcement officers to evaluate and take action to thwart when they encounter it during their patrols. You should call 911 only when you need assistance of an emergent nature.

In today’s bulletin, Dare County reports 1,040 cases of COVID-19 in 69 of 100 N.C. counties, and four deaths associated with the viral infection. These are numbers from the N.C. Dept. of Health and Human Services.

The Beacon does not put much stock in case counts because testing has been inadequate in North Carolina, as well as everywhere else in the county. Many people who may currently be—or once were—infected with COVID-19 may have been advised to stay home and forgo testing or they may have been denied testing. Many others are waiting for long-delayed test results.

While writing this post, we received pop-up news notices of two more COVID-19-associated deaths in the state: one in Buncombe County and the other in Mecklenburg County.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said on CNN this morning that the novel coronavirus could infect millions of people in the United States and kill between 100,000 and 200,000.

He also told a Washington Post reporter in an interview last week: “I’m actually pleading with the younger generation that, although you feel you are invulnerable—which is not true; nobody’s invulnerable—the fight is not only trying to protect yourself. You have a societal, in some respects, moral responsibility to protect yourself so that you don’t inadvertently and unintentionally infect those who are more vulnerable.”

We are still in the early days of the pandemic in the United States. We don’t know yet how well mitigation of the COVID-19 spread will work. Bottom line: Enjoy the beautiful weather, but don’t cheat.

Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 3/29/20

3/28/20: COVID-19 UPDATE: DARE COUNTY AMENDS ITS STAY HOME ORDER TO ALIGN WITH GOVERNOR’S STATEWIDE DIRECTIVE, RECOGNIZING IT CONTROLS. Still Only One Confirmed Case in County; Dare Board of Commissioners to Meet April 1 by Telephone.

A woman is subjected to CDC screening for the new coronavirus in a quarantine center at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in January. (photo courtesy of the U.S.Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

Dare County updated its Stay Home-Stay Healthy declaration today to align it with Governor Roy Cooper’s statewide Stay at Home order and guidelines, clarifying that where there may be differences between the two directives, the State order controls.

Both orders are being imposed to thwart the spread in North Carolina of COVID-19, the severe respiratory illness caused by the new coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, by preventing close contact between people.

The County’s declaration becomes effective today at 5 p.m. The Governor’s directive, which was announced as Executive Order No. 121, takes effect Monday at 5 p.m.

If either government body had imposed a “shelter in place” order, which is more restrictive than a stay at home order, residents would be unable to leave their homes, except in emergency situations.

We Outer Bankers are used to sheltering in place during hurricanes: You stock up on supplies, hunker down in a safe place, and stay put until the emergency has passed.

See the CDC on sheltering in place at: https://emergency.cdc.gov/shelterinplace.asp.

In a bulletin announcing the update today, Dare County Emergency Management also stated that there is still only one “positive COVID-19 test result” in the County, which was reported March 25. The County Dept. of Health and Human Services will continue to report any positive cases when they become known.

The Beacon congratulates Dare County and its manager/attorney, Bobby Outten, on taking such swift action to head off any inconsistencies between the two directives that may give rise to confusion. Last night The Beacon pondered doing a side-by-side comparison of the two orders in order to identify any inconsistencies and is grateful to be spared the task.

(It is usually safe to assume that state action takes precedence, but it is best to have that assumption confirmed in writing.)

The County’s amendment also makes clear that a violation of any of the restrictions and prohibitions in either the County’s or the State’s order is punishable as a Class 2 misdemeanor, which carries a penalty of up to 60 days in jail and a $1,000 fine. The State’s order leaves enforcement up to local authorities.

See the Dare County Emergency Management’s updated Bulletin #19 at https://www.darenc.com/Home/Components/News/News/6033/1483.

You will find the text of the amended Stay Home-Stay Healthy declaration here: https://www.darenc.com/Home/ShowDocument?id=6276.

The Beacon re-publishes below relevant links that we published yesterday after the Governor’s announcement:

The text of Executive Order No. 121: https://files.nc.gov/governor/documents/files/EO121-Stay-at-Home-Order-3.pdf

Frequently asked questions about the executive order: https://files.nc.gov/governor/documents/files/200327_FAQ-SAH-Order_FINAL.pdf

If you do not think your business is included in the essential services list in the executive order, and you believe it should be, you may apply online with the N.C. Dept. of Revenue for it to be designated essential.

Go to https://www.ncdor.gov/home/ncdor-actions-covid-19/covid-19-essential-businesses.

Until your exemption is reviewed, you may operate your business as long as you can accommodate physical distancing in your workplace.


APRIL 7, SOUTHERN SHORES: The Town of Southern Shores has announced through Dare County Emergency Management bulletins that it is “currently evaluating services that would allow electronic viewing [of] and participation” in its next Town Council meeting, which is scheduled for April 7.

THE TOWN OF DUCK has announced that its April 1 Town Council meeting will be live-streamed and that it will provide instructions for public comment and viewing on its website before the meeting.

THE DARE COUNTY BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS’ April 1 meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. via telephone. The public may access the meeting by calling (301) 715-8592, (669) 900-6833, (346) 248-7799, or (929) 436-2866 and then entering the meeting ID of (296) 841-306. The public will be able to comment.

The Beacon will find out Monday how much in advance you may call into the meeting.  

RECYCLING MEETING: The Beacon reported yesterday on the postponement of a State, County, and multi-town recycling meeting that had been scheduled for Monday. The Beacon should have stated that organizers of the meeting, originally scheduled to be held in Manteo, had hoped to hold it Monday by electronic means, but arrangements have not been made.

According to Sandy Skolochenko, a Community Development Specialist with the N.C. Dept. of Environmental Quality, organizer/Nags Head Town Manager Cliff Ogburn is exploring a “Webinar-based meeting” for some time in April.

The Beacon has reported extensively on the recycling crisis on the Outer Banks. NC DEQ has granted Bay Disposal & Recycling a temporary exemption that enables the Powells Point-based collector to haul loads of recyclables to an incinerator in Portsmouth. This exemption expires April 15.


REACHING OUT TO THE COMMUNITY . . . If you have a concern during this uncertain and trying time that you have not seen addressed by town, county, or state officials and resources, please email The Beacon at ssbeaconeditor@gmail.com, and we will try to be of assistance.

Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 3/28/20   



Governor Roy Cooper has ordered all people in the state of North Carolina to stay at home for 30 days—until April 29—starting Monday at 5 p.m., in order to prevent the spread of the highly contagious COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the new coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2.

Like Dare County’s “Stay Home-Stay Healthy” declaration issued earlier today, the Governor’s Executive Order No. 121 provides for people to leave home and travel only for essential activities; for essential businesses to continue to operate; for mass gatherings to be limited to 10 people; and for the strict observation of physical (social) distancing by people when they are using shared or outdoor spaces away from their residences.

Because they are time-sensitive, funerals are not subject to the 10-person restriction on mass gatherings. Fifty people may attend a funeral, and they should practice physical distancing.

The Beacon prefers the term, physical distancing, which public-health scientists endorse, to social distancing. Both refer to a person not standing any closer than six feet to another person.

“To continue our aggressive battle against COVID-19, I have signed a Stay at Home Order for the entire state of North Carolina,” the Governor said in a press release.

“Though it is difficult we must do this to slow the disease spread. We need our medical system to be able to care for the friends and family we know will become seriously ill from the virus.”

The Governor said three North Carolinians have died as a result of COVID-19, and the state currently has 763 confirmed COVID-19 cases in 60 of its 100 counties. North Carolina is considered to have widespread community transmission of the virus, meaning many people who test positive for it cannot trace the source of their infection.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported today a total of 85,356 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, and 1,246 deaths.

For the text of Executive Order No. 121, see: https://files.nc.gov/governor/documents/files/EO121-Stay-at-Home-Order-3.pdf.

For a list of frequently asked questions about the executive order, see: https://files.nc.gov/governor/documents/files/200327_FAQ-SAH-Order_FINAL.pdf.

If you do not think your business is included in the essential services list in the executive order, and you believe it should be, you may apply online with the N.C. Dept. of Revenue for it to be designated essential. Go to https://www.ncdor.gov/home/ncdor-actions-covid-19/covid-19-essential-businesses.

Until your exemption is reviewed, you may operate your business as long as you can accommodate physical distancing in your workplace.

Executive Order No. 121 is valid for 30 days, but it can be revised or extended.

Governor Cooper is seeking voluntary cooperation from all state residents and businesses. If this cooperation is not achieved, state and local law enforcement officers have the authority to enforce the order.

Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 3/27/20


You are allowed to go to the beach under the emergency ‘Stay Home-Stay Healthy’ order, but you must maintain physical distancing of six feet with others you encounter.

Dare County issued a “Stay Home-Stay Healthy” directive today to all residents and all other people authorized to be in Dare County that will go into effect tomorrow at 5 p.m. Its primary intent is to limit people’s movements outside of their homes, to only essential tasks and travel, but it also limits gatherings to no more than 10 people and broadly defines businesses and service providers considered to be essential.

This action is being taken as a result of State health officials having shifted this week into a mitigation strategy to combat the COVID-19 outbreak. (See The Beacon, 3/27/20.)

By curtailing people’s movements, the County seeks to minimize opportunities for people to be exposed to the new coronavirus, as well as to transmit it.

For details about what you can do and should not do, see the Dare County Emergency Management information bulletin at https://www.darenc.com/home/showdocument?id=6272.

According to the ‘Stay Home-Stay Healthy’ declaration, people who are authorized to be in Dare County may:

*Go to the grocery store, a convenience store, or a gas station

*Go to a pharmacy to pick up medications and healthcare necessities

*Visit a health care facility for medical services (Please call your healthcare provider first to see if services can be provided virtually prior to visiting.)

*Go to a restaurant for take-out or drive-thru service (delivery is allowed)

*Care for or support a friend, family member, or pet

*Go outside to take a walk, go to the beach, go for a bike ride, hike, and job, provided physical distancing of six feet is maintained

*Help others get necessary supplies

*Receive deliveries

You may not:

*Go outside of your home if you are sick

*Travel, except for essential travel and activities

*Go to work, unless you are providing essential services

*Gather in groups of more than 10 people

*Be closer than six feet from others when you are out in public

*Visit friends and family if you have no specific, urgent need to do so

*Visit loved ones in a hospital, nursing home, a skilled nursing facility, or other residential care facility, except for limited exceptions as provided by the specific facility

In general, activities considered essential are those done:

*To further health and safety

*To get necessary supplies and services

*To engage in outdoor activities

*To work for essential businesses/operations

*To take care of others in need

The entry restrictions for non-resident property owners and visitors remain in place, and there are no restrictions on leaving Dare County.

People who do not live in Dare County may be authorized to be here if they are engaging in “essential travel,” such as traveling to care for elders, minors, dependents, persons with disabilities, or other “vulnerable persons” or traveling for the purpose of providing essential activities, such as essential government functions or essential businesses and operations.

The declaration defines in detail those businesses that are considered essential. Among them are businesses that provide “essential services necessary to maintain essential operations of residences or other essential businesses.”

People who are property managers, contractors, subcontractors, landscapers, plumbers, electricians, and exterminators, among others, are considered to be providing essential services. So are legal, engineering, architectural, or accounting professionals.

It also elaborates upon essential healthcare operations, essential government functions, essential critical infrastructure, essential retail, and more.

We encourage you to read the full text of the declaration here: https://www.darenc.com/home/showdocument?id=6274. The order will remain in effect unless modified, extended, or rescinded.

In yesterday’s blog, The Beacon brought up the enforcement of, and possible criminal penalties for violating, similar “stay-at-home” orders imposed in other N.C. counties and towns. In Dare County, law enforcement agencies are being asked to enforce the order first through “education, dialogue, and seeking voluntary cooperation.”

If local law enforcement officers cannot achieve voluntary cooperation, they may enforce the order through citations or misdemeanor charges. A violation of any of the restrictions and prohibitions imposed under today’s emergency declaration is punishable as a Class 2 misdemeanor, which carries a maximum penalty of 60 days in jail and a $1,000 fine.

The Beacon is not surprised by this order, in light of the changes it discussed in yesterday’s post about COVID-19 prevention strategy and criteria for determining whom to test for the virus. In fact, we would be surprised if Governor Roy Cooper does not take statewide action later today or over the weekend.


STATE, COUNTY, MULTI-TOWN RECYCLING MEETING POSTPONED:  A meeting to be held electronically on Monday, March 30, among N.C. environmental officials, Dare County and town officials, and some industry representatives, to discuss local recycling options in light of TFC’s refusal to accept Outer Banks recycling at its Chesapeake facility has been postponed.

According to Sandy Skolochenko, a Community Development Specialist with the N.C. Dept. of Environmental Quality, Nags Head Town Manager Cliff Ogburn, who is organizing the meeting, is exploring a “Webinar-based meeting” for some time in April.

The NC DEQ has granted Bay Disposal & Recycling a temporary exemption that enables the Powells Point-based collector to haul loads of recyclables to an incinerator in Portsmouth. This exemption expires April 15.

DON’T FORGET: The bulk-trash collection scheduled for April 3 has been postponed.

Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 3/27/20




An increasing number of counties and towns across North Carolina are issuing stay-at-home orders in response to State health officials’ shift this week away from tracking only lab-confirmed cases to assess the spread of COVID-19 into implementing a community mitigation strategy to slow the outbreak—a strategy that has resulted in a major change in testing criteria.

“The case counts that we get are not a great marker for how fast this is accelerating or what the true burden of COVID-19 is out there in the community,” State Epidemiologist Zack Moore said, according to a report yesterday by The News & Observer.

Both the N.C. Healthcare Assn., which has 130 hospital members, and the N.C. Nurses Assn. have asked N.C. Governor Roy Cooper to issue a statewide shelter-in-place order so that hospitals can keep up with the growing number of COVID-19 patients and not be depleted of necessary supplies and beds.

Although Governor Cooper has indicated in recent remarks that he soon will be issuing more restrictions, he has not announced a statewide shelter-in-place order yet.

Directed by Dr. Moore, the N.C. Dept. of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) has significantly changed its COVID-19 testing recommendations, in accordance with guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Whereas previously the NCDHHS had advised clinicians to test patients for the respiratory illness caused by the new coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, if they had a fever, a negative flu test, and a cough OR shortness of breath, it is now advising them to test only those patients who have a fever, a negative flu test, a cough, AND shortness of breath or another severe symptom such as chest discomfort, difficulty breathing, altered thinking, or cyanosis.

The change in testing criteria is intended to reduce the community spread of the illness—which is furthered when infected people go out to be tested—and to protect people from being exposed to the coronavirus when seeking testing, especially in healthcare settings.

It is also designed to preserve Personal Protective Equipment and supplies needed for outbreaks in high-risk settings, to protect frontline healthcare and emergency personnel, and to care for people with the more severe symptoms.

North Carolina has the same critical shortage as the rest of the nation in test kits, necessary components for testing such as swabs, and the masks, gowns, and gloves that healthcare workers must wear when they perform the tests.

With the demand for testing outpacing its supply, the CDC has altered the criteria for testing to reduce the demand and conserve medical supplies and capacity so that healthcare workers can care for people who most need medical attention.

State Senator Jeff Jackson of Mecklenburg County, which accounts for 25 percent of all of the confirmed COVID-19 cases in North Carolina, has been issuing regular updates during the pandemic crisis. In an afternoon email today, he gave context to the testing change, saying:

“[It] means if you’re a middle-aged, reasonably healthy person and you develop mild, flu-like symptoms and think you may be infected, the new guidance is to call your doctor, at which point your doctor will likely tell you to assume you’re infected and self-quarantine until you’ve been fever-free for three days (unless your condition worsens, in which case call your doctor again).”

The NCDHHS is also urging clinicians to use telehealth/televideo and telephone triage to assess patients with respiratory illness.

Both NCDHHS and the CDC have posted online “what to do if you feel sick” fact sheets:

From the CDC: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/if-you-are-sick/steps-when-sick.html

From the NCDHHS: https://files.nc.gov/ncdhhs/documents/files/covid-19/C19-PatientGuidance-3.23.20-FINAL–003-.pdf

The shift in testing places even more importance on social or physical distancing, which is why counties (Mecklenburg, Wake, Orange, Pitt, Buncombe) and towns (Winston-Salem, Clemmons, Beaufort) are ordering people to stay home.

Such orders generally require people to leave their own property only to perform essential tasks, keep essential appointments, and pick up essential supplies. Some of the businesses that are considered essential service providers include grocery stores, pharmacies, auto-repair shops, banks, legal advisers, and laundromats. (Last we checked, the ABC Stores were still open.)

Stay-at-home orders give law enforcement officers authority they currently lack now in counties, cities, and towns where residents have been asked to comply voluntarily with physical distancing. In Mecklenburg County, for example, police may arrest people who violate the order and charge them with a misdemeanor. (The Beacon does not know if imposing criminal consequences for violation of these orders is standard or not. We would speculate that it is.)

For an update on the N.C. counties and towns where stay-at-home orders have been issued, see: https://www.newsobserver.com/news/coronavirus/article241524906.html

IN OTHER NEWS: The White House has granted Governor Cooper’s request for a federal disaster declaration for the COVID-19 pandemic in North Carolina. This declaration enables local governments, state agencies, and eligible non-profits to be reimbursed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency for costs related to their response to the outbreak.

See https://www.ncdhhs.gov/news/press-releases/north-carolina-receives-federal-disaster-declaration-covid-19

Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 3/26/20


A test kit for COVID-19 prepared by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (photo courtesy of CDC)

N.C. government officials and tourism-related industry group leaders will host a webinar today, from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m., to inform businesses on the latest news and resources pertinent to the travel and tourism, hotel, and restaurant industries during the COVID-19 emergency.

The topics and speakers include:

*Overview of the N.C. economy, by N.C. Secretary of Commerce Anthony Copeland;

*State of the N.C. tourism industry, by Wit Tuttell, an executive with the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina;

*Rules and regulations regarding restaurants and lodging, by Lynn Minges, president and CEO of the N.C. Restaurant and Lodging Assn.;

*Financial assistance available for N.C. businesses, by John Loyack, also with the EDPNC;

*Unemployment and re-employment news for N.C., by Secretary Copeland.

To register for the webinar, go to: https://register.gotowebinar.com/register/2288937324203932173


Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 3/26/20



It was inevitable.

BREAKING NEWS: The Dare County Dept. of Public Health announced its first positive COVID-19 test this morning and said the infected person is self-isolating and doing well.

See Bulletin 15 from Dare County Emergency Management at https://www.darenc.com/Home/Components/News/News/6016/17?backlist=%2fdepartments%2fhealth-human-services%2fcoronavirus

The person is believed to have acquired the virus through travel or direct contact, not through community spread, according to Dr. Sheila Davies, director of the Dare County Dept. of Health and Human Resources.

Wavy.com reported that the person did not use a Dare County address when tested.

The case will not be included in the case count updated daily online by the N.C. Dept. of Health and Human Services.

In other news, N.C. State health officials have reported the first two COVID-related deaths in the state. See https://governor.nc.gov/news/north-carolina-reports-first-covid-19-associated-deaths; and https://www.wavy.com/news/north-carolina/north-carolina-sees-number-of-covid-19-cases-jump-past-500/

One person was from Cabarrus County, which is near Charlotte. The other was described as being from Virginia and traveling through North Carolina. The Cabarrus County resident was reportedly in his/her late 70s and had multiple underlying medical problems.

Mecklenburg County, in which Charlotte is located, announced a stay-at-home order yesterday that will go into effect tomorrow at 8 a.m. and stay in effect until at least midnight on April 16, according to N.C. State Sen. Jeff Jackson, who represents Mecklenburg.


The previously scheduled April 3 bulk-waste collection in Southern Shores has been postponed, according to an announcement on the Town website.

The Town also has updated its list of “Town Operations and Meetings” to specify that the next Town Council meeting will be held April 7, but the date is “subject to change.”


Dare County Emergency Management issued a COVID-19 bulletin yesterday that was chock-full of potentially useful state and local information for small businesspeople, parents of young children, and anyone else needing assistance during the coronavirus crisis. But you have to click on a link to access it.

Many of you may already be taking advantage of these resources because most were previously announced. Undeterred by the risk of redundancy, however, The Beacon offers the following highlights to facilitate online searching:

Businesses and Employees

The Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina has compiled a list of extensive resources, both state and federal, that are available to assist businesses and employees through the pandemic. See https://edpnc.com/nc-business-relief-resources-covid-19/.

This website is updated regularly:

Included among these resources is information about filing for unemployment: Call 888-737-0259 or go to https://des.nc.gov/apply-unemployment/; and

Information about small business loans: https://www.sba.gov/page/coronavirus-covid-19-small-business-guidance-loan-resources

Community Resources

A list of community resources that includes information about what the County has categorized as “food,” “utilities,” “families,” “businesses and employees,” and “nonprofits” is available at https://www.darenc.com/departments/health-human-services/coronavirus/covid-19-community-resources.

All Dare County children up to the age of 18 can receive breakfast and lunch at no cost, Monday through Friday, at area locations, including the Kitty Hawk Elementary School.

Breakfast is served from 7:45 a.m. to 8:45 a.m., and lunch is served from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. The main meal site locations are Manteo, First Flight, and Cape Hatteras elementary schools. But there also are community locations, the closest of which for Southern Shores residents are the KHES, Daniels Home Import, and the Belk Center in Kill Devil Hills.

Many area utilities are making payment and late-fee exceptions during the crisis.

Dominion Energy has announced that it will not shut off power due to nonpayment, and it will reconnect service for residential customers whose services were shut off. If you are facing financial difficulties, you may be eligible for short-term payment extensions, long-term payment assistance, or energy assistance. Contact Dominion Energy.

Spectrum has announced that it will not terminate service for 60 days (March 16-May 16) for residential or small business customers who face difficult economic circumstances. It also will not charge late fees to those customers facing COVID-19-relatd difficulties.

Free Spectrum broadband and Wi-Fi access is available for the same 60 days to households with K-12 and/or college students who do not already have a Spectrum broadband subscription at any service level up to 100 Mbps. To enroll, call 844-488-8395. Installation fees will be waived for new student households.

Verizon is also waiving late fees from March 16 to May 16, and will not terminate the service of a customer who has been adversely affected by events involving the coronavirus. Customers experiencing a hardship should call the Verizon customer service team to discuss their situation and available options.

CenturyLink, too, is waiving late fees and not terminating residential or small business customers’ service due to COVID-19 financial circumstances. It is also suspending data usage limits for consumer customers during this time period.

Refunds Due Vacation Home Renters

The N.C. Real Estate Commission has determined that landlords and brokers must refund all monies paid by vacation property tenants for rental weeks affected by the closure of access to the Outer Banks.

Advised by the N.C. Attorney General’s Office, the Commission has interpreted the N.C. Vacation Rental Act to require landlords and brokers to refund all tenant monies when “access to [a vacation] property cannot be provided.”

See the Commission’s Statement at https://www.ncrec.gov/Pdfs/COVIDRelatedRoadBridgeAccessClosures.pdf.

The Commission states: “In those instances where the real estate broker may have legally disbursed up to fifty percent of the rent received to the owner as provided [by the Vacation Rental Act] the broker must return the funds the broker continues to hold in their trust account to the tenant. Similarly, the landlord, and not the broker, is responsible for returning to the tenant the money the landlord received as an advanced disbursement. A landlord who refuses to return money to a tenant may be subject to a civil suit by the tenant.”

The Beacon urges vacation property owners who are affected by the Commission’s decision to contact their brokers if they have not already heard from them.

Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 3/25/20