The last time the Walmart turned away customers was during Hurricane Dorian last September.

“To date, Dare County has reported 13 positive test results for COVID-19,” today’s Dare County Emergency Management bulletin tells us.

See Bulletin No. 38: https://www.darenc.com/Home/Components/News/News/6111/398

Of the 13 confirmed COVID-19 cases, the bulletin states, eight have recovered or have been “asymptomatically cleared”; three are asymptomatic (with no COVID-19 symptoms); one is recovering at home; and one has died. To be asymptomatically cleared is to exhibit no symptoms seven days after testing.

In the remainder of the bulletin, the County repeats the guidelines that are in effect during the Stay Home-Stay Healthy order for “slowing” the spread of the virus and the resources that are available through the N.C. Dept. of Health and Human Services’ website.

(The Beacon apologizes for the false start to this post that we originally published. Please delete.)


Retail establishments that have permission to continue operating during the statewide stay-at-home order will be required to observe an “emergency maximum occupancy,” starting Monday at 5 p.m., according to an executive order issued yesterday by Governor Roy Cooper.

The order specifies that all such retailers must limit their maximum occupancy to “no more than”:

*Twenty percent of the state fire capacity; OR

*Five customers for every 1,000 square feet of the “retail location’s total square footage, including non-customer-facing portions.”

The five-customers-per-1,000-square feet restriction will have a profound effect on how Outer Banks supermarkets do business.

Executive Order No. 131 further requires retailers to post this emergency maximum occupancy “in a conspicuous place,” and to assign “sufficient” staff members to monitor the store entrances and exits in order to enforce the limit.

See Executive Order No. 131: https://files.nc.gov/governor/documents/files/EO131-Retail-Long-Term-Care-Unemployment-Insurance.pdf

The retail establishments that are covered by the order are described as including “any business in which customers enter to purchase goods or services, including but not limited to grocery stores, convenience stores, large-format retail stores, pharmacies, banks, ABC stores, hardware stores, and vehicle dealerships.”

The new order also requires retailers to observe the minimum social/physical distancing recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention by clearly marking six feet of spacing “in lines at cash registers” and “in other high-traffic areas for customers, such as at deli counters and near high-volume products,” inside their stores.

If a retailer reaches or expects to reach its “Emergency Maximum Occupancy” at any time, it must “clearly mark six feet of spacing in a designated line outside the establishment,” according to the order.

Further, all operating retail establishments must “perform frequent and routine environmental cleaning and disinfection of high touch areas” with a disinfectant approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for SARS-CoV-2.

Executive Order 131 encourages retailers to take voluntary steps, as well, including:

*to reduce viral transmission among employees (through suggested means);

*to place hand sanitizer prominently at entry and exit points and to have disinfecting EPA-approved wipes and/or sprays available for shopping carts and baskets;

*to post signage that reminds customers and employees about required six-foot physical distancing; and

*to designate exclusive shopping times for “seniors and other at-risk groups as defined by the CDC.”

The Kitty Hawk Harris Teeter has set aside exclusive shopping times for customers age 60 and older on Monday and Thursday, from 6 a.m. to 8 a.m. It also will accept online orders from the same age group, and deliver the groceries, on Thursday between 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Walmart has an exclusive shopping hour for customers age 60 and older every Tuesday from 6 a.m. to 7 a.m.—which is an hour before it opens to all customers.

See Walmart: https://corporate.walmart.com/newsroom/2020/03/18/latest-walmart-store-changes-to-support-associates-and-customers

Food Lion in the Marketplace has online shopping and on-site pickup of orders available, but it has not set aside exclusive shopping hours for customers viewed as more vulnerable to the COVID-19 threat.

Although Governor Cooper considered requiring one-way aisles in retail establishments in order to reduce interpersonal contact, the order only recommends that retailers “provide assistance with routing through aisles in the store.”

The new occupancy controls will remain in effect for 30 days after their April 13 imposition, unless they are repealed, replaced, or rescinded.


In light of the numerous COVID-19 outbreaks in nursing homes in North Carolina, Governor Cooper also ordered yesterday that so-called skilled nursing facilities take mandatory mitigation actions, including:

*screening all staff at the beginning of their shifts for fever and respiratory symptoms, which means actively taking staff members’ temperatures and documenting the absence or presence of shortness of breath (aka dyspnea), a cough, and sore throat;

*canceling “communal dining and all group activities, including internal and external activities”;

*implementing “universal” use of facemasks for all staff members while they are in the facility, “assuming supplies are available”;

*actively monitoring all residents upon admission, and at least daily, for fever and respiratory symptoms (dyspnea, cough, sore throat), and continued monitoring during their stay; and

*notifying the local health department immediately about 1) any resident with new, confirmed, or suspected COVID-19; or 2) a “cluster” of residents or staff with symptoms of respiratory illness.

A cluster is defined as three or more people with new-onset respiratory symptoms in a period of 72 hours.

Executive Order 131 stops short of requiring adult-care homes, family-care homes, mental health-group homes, and intermediate-care facilities for individuals with intellectual disability to observe the same mitigation rules. It only encourages them to do so.

The new restrictions on skilled nursing facilities take effect today at 5 p.m.

Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 4/10/20

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