Mayor Tom Bennett announced a state of emergency in Southern Shores today shortly after Dare County declared a county-wide state of emergency in order to allow the County and individual towns to implement quickly restrictions necessary to thwart the spread of the new coronavirus known as COVID-19.
“I believe it essential to take as many proactive measures as we can in dealing with the potential impact of the Coronavirus (COVID-19),” the Mayor said in a letter to the community.
So far, no COVID-19 cases have been confirmed on the Outer Banks. Thirty-three people have tested positive for the virus in North Carolina.
The World Health Organization has declared COVID-19, which poses the most dire health risk to elderly people and people with underlying medical conditions, a worldwide pandemic. Some nations, including Italy, Germany, Ireland, and Denmark, are in lockdown, tightening their borders and severely restricting the movement of their own citizens.
See Mayor Bennett’s letter at https://www.southernshores-nc.gov/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/coronavirus-2020-mayor-letter-EXECUTED.pdf.
See the Mayor’s declaration of a state of emergency: https://www.southernshores-nc.gov/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/MARCH-16-2020-CORONAVIRUS-DECLARATION-OF-STATE-OF-EMERGENCY-executed.pdf.
Effective immediately, the Southern Shores Town Hall is closed to the public. The Town announced today that all business will be conducted by telephone, email, fax, or other “virtual means to the greatest extent possible.”
A notice posted on the Town website further states that all meetings of “all appointed Town advisory boards, commissions and committees will be modified to reduce vulnerability of people and property” of Southern Shores.
Town staff will be in contact with groups expecting to meet on Town property to “outline meeting procedures going forward.”
Tonight’s Planning Board meeting, scheduled for 5:30 p.m. in the Pitts Center, has been canceled.
Adhering to the guidance that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provided yesterday, Dare County’s state of emergency restricts “mass” gatherings of 50 people or more.
A mass gathering does not include groups of people in medical facilities, libraries, shopping malls/centers and other retail establishments, restaurants, factories, office environments, or other spaces where people may be incidentally gathered. The restriction apparently applies to organized meetings and events in which more than 50 people may be expected to gather.
The Dare County Control Group made the decision to declare the County’s state of emergency after meeting this morning. Officials of the Control Group are adhering to guidance and recommendations issued by the CDC and the N.C. Dept. of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS). The Control Group said that it will continue to meet and provide updates on a daily basis.
You may access updated County information at darenc.com/covid19 or sign up to receive news directly from the County at darenc.com/enotify.
You also may access the most current information from the NCDHHS at https://www.ncdhhs.gov/divisions/public-health/coronavirus-disease-2019-covid-19-response-north-carolina.
Dare County has set up a telephone hotline for information about COVID-19 testing and symptoms, travel restrictions, preparation efforts, and prevention suggestions at (252) 475-5008. It will be staffed daily from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.; those hours may be extended, the County said, depending on the call volume.
N.C. Governor Roy Cooper previously ordered the closure of all State public schools, effective today, and restricted mass gatherings of 100 people or more, when the CDC and the NCDHHS had so advised. So far, the Governor has not imposed travel restrictions in North Carolina.
According to the County, the following facilities will be closed until further notice beginning at 2 p.m. today: the Dare County Center, the Thomas A. Baum Senior Center, the Fessenden Center, all Dare County libraries, and all County parks and recreation facilities. You will find a complete list of cancellations and closures at www.darenc.com/closures.
Dare County offices will remain open, but in-person contact may be limited. The County suggests that, before you visit one of its offices, you check its website or call ahead to confirm that face-to-face services will be provided, or if you will have to communicate online or over the telephone.
PLEASE NOTE: This article may be revised as further information becomes known.
Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 3/16/20