[Please Note: All appointments for Dare County’s drive-thru COVID-19 testing next Wednesday at FFHS have been filled. The County will announce the next drive-thru testing date on Wednesday at 5 p.m.]
The stay-at-home order under which North Carolinians have been living since March 30 ends at 5 p.m. today, as we move into Phase Two of the State’s reopening, which Governor Roy Cooper has described as a “safer-at-home” phase.
Phase Two represents a “cautious” and “modest” approach to the continued gradual easing of statewide economic restrictions, which started May 8, with Phase One, the Governor said in his Wednesday briefing.
Phase Two is spelled out in Executive Order 141. It allows restaurants, personal care, grooming, and tattoo businesses, and child-care facilities to open for on-premises services, subject to specific infection-control measures designed to promote social distancing and to reduce COVID-19 transmission.
The order also increases the number of people who may gather in outdoor mass gatherings from no more than 10 to no more than 25.
Phase Two will remain in effect until 5 p.m. June 26, unless the Governor repeals or rescinds it.
The Beacon will highlight some of the major requirements and recommendations in the Executive Order. For more details, please see the order at: https://files.nc.gov/governor/documents/files/EO141-Phase-2.pdf
During the five weeks of Phase Two, “high-risk individuals,” including people age 65 and older and those of any age who have serious underlying medical conditions, are encouraged to stay at home.
Those who go out in public are advised—but not required—to wear a cloth face covering, to maintain at least six feet of social distancing from other people, to use hand sanitizer, to wash their hands frequently, and to regularly clean “high touch” surfaces such as steering wheels, wallets, and telephones.
Retail businesses, such as Walmart, whose mask-less customers came up in a recent Next Door discussion among Southern Shores residents, may require their customers and employees to wear face coverings, if they choose. The Executive Order does not prevent individual businesses from imposing greater restrictions, but, as we have seen in the national news, enforcing face-covering requirements can result in angry confrontations and even violence.
Retail businesses are still required to limit their store occupancy to 50 percent of capacity and to ensure that six feet of distancing space is maintained between everyone in the store. Executive Order 141 applies the same standards in the context of restaurants; personal care, grooming, and tattoo businesses; and indoor and outdoor pools.
Restaurants and personal care, grooming, and tattoo businesses also must adhere to additional requirements of social distancing, disinfection, and hygiene, which are designed to reduce transmission of COVID-19. (See the order.)
While restaurant workers are “strongly encouraged” to wear face coverings when they are within six feet of someone else, workers in personal care, grooming, and tattoo business are required to wear them in the same circumstances.
Law enforcement officers may be called to assist if the requirements of the Executive Order are not observed.
Bars, night clubs, gyms, health clubs, indoor exercise and fitness facilities, movie theaters, museums, bowling alleys, bingo parlors, venues for parties or receptions, and a number of other entertainment businesses remain closed during Phase Two.
Significantly, “worship, religious, and spiritual gatherings, funeral ceremonies, and other activities constituting the exercise of First Amendment rights” are exempt from all of the requirements in Executive Order 141.
The statewide indoor and outdoor mass-gathering restrictions do not apply to mass gatherings that are protected by the First Amendment’s free exercise of religion clause.
For all other gatherings, the indoor mass gathering restriction of no more than 10 people remains in effect through Phase Two.
The Executive Order strongly encourages individuals who participate in exempted mass gatherings to observe social-distancing recommendations. It also urges the organizers of such events to conform them to the 10- and 25-person restrictions.
The Governor would rather that mass gatherings not occur at all because of the higher risk of COVID-19 transmission in crowds, but he is not challenging the First Amendment free exercise clause.
RECENT NEW DAILY CASE COUNTS EXCEED 700
Governor Cooper and Secretary of the N.C. Dept. of Health and Human Services, Dr. Mandy Cohen, scaled back the anticipated scope of reopening in Phase Two because they are concerned about the number of new COVID-19 cases being reported statewide. The case counts from the past two days will not relieve their concerns.
The daily new COVID-19 case count statewide has exceeded 700 for the 48 hours since the Governor announced the start of Phase Two. The positive-test rate has remained fairly low, however, averaging 5.8 percent.
The data from the NCDHHS dashboard for Thursday and today are as follows:
Thursday: 788 new COVID-19 cases, out of 13,042 completed tests, for a positive-test rate of 6 percent. Hospitalizations increased 24 to 578, and deaths increased 14 to 716.
Today: 708 new COVID-19 cases, out of 12,579 completed tests, for a positive-test rate of 5.6 percent. Hospitalizations declined by 10 to 568, while deaths increased 12 to 728.
MEETING THE NEW TOWN MANAGER, CLIFF OGBURN
Considering all of the foregoing, newly hired Southern Shores town manager Timothy Clifton (“Cliff”) Ogburn will be assuming the leadership of our Town Hall at what appears to be an inauspicious time.
For that reason, it is also a challenging time.
From what we have observed of Mr. Ogburn in his role as Nags Head town manager, we believe he has the right stuff to meet any challenge. We greet his appointment with optimism.
Mr. Ogburn is a Greenboro native who grew up in Clemmons, N.C., in Forsyth County, received his bachelor’s degree from East Carolina University, and earned master’s degrees from ECU and Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Va.
He became town manager of Nags Head in 2009.
According to a Wednesday press release by the Town, Mr. Ogburn was one of five semifinalists that the Town Council interviewed remotely for the job. The Town received 66 applications from people located in 19 states, as The Beacon has previously reported.
Mr. Ogburn’s last day in Nags Head’s employ will be June 19, according to OBX Today. He will start work in Southern Shores no later than July 1.
Mr. Ogburn’s terms of employment were not disclosed by the Council at its workshop meeting on Tuesday, when it approved his hiring.
Before becoming Nags Head’s town manager, Mr. Ogburn served a short stint as the town’s deputy town manager, according to the Town’s release. He also served as public services director for Dare County and as parks and recreation director for the Town of Edenton.
Mr. Ogburn’s master’s degrees are in education (ECU) and public administration (ODU). He, his wife, Joy, who is a teacher at First Flight Middle School, and their children live in Nags Head. We are hopeful that Mr. Ogburn and his family will move to Southern Shores.
The town manager position has been open since mid-August, when Peter Rascoe took two weeks’ leave before his Sept. 1 retirement. Deputy Town Manager/Planning Director Wes Haskett has served as both acting and interim town manager since Mr. Rascoe departed.
Mr. Rascoe is currently employed by the City of Charleston, S.C., according to the Town’s release.
The Beacon looks forward to speaking with Mr. Ogburn in the future.
Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 5/22/20