Durham’s extended stay-at-home order attempts to balance reopening, safety, mayor says


DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) – On Friday, Durham city and county leaders extended the joint stay-at-home order. It includes stricter regulations than the state in some areas.

The order continues to require face coverings when it is impossible to maintain a safe distance, limits the number of funeral guests to 25, includes social distancing and sanitation requirements for businesses, and now allows realtors to show occupied homes under certain conditions.

“The difference between our order and the governor’s order is we do have a few more restrictions and rules which we think are important to keep people safe,” said Mayor Steve Schewel.

City officials said the stay-at-home order has no end date and they will lift it when it is safe to do so.

“We have to get our economy going again and we have to do it safely,” Schewel said. “Our order is an attempt to try to balance those things.”

Schewel said that Durham is currently in Phase One of reopening, along with the rest of the state. But, as far as moving on to Phase Two when the rest of the state does, he said that will depend on if the number of cases continues to decline.

Rebecca Newton, who is president and CEO of the Carolina Theatre in downtown Durham, said the theatre decided to close the theatre in mid-March. Since then, the theatre has lost thousands of dollars in sales.

“It’s our busiest time of the year and we had to close,” Newton said.

Last week, the theatre decided to start takeout concessions, where people can order popcorn and other concession food online on Fridays from 4 to 8 p.m. People can come to the theatre to pick it up and employees will hand it to them outside the doors.

Newton said this is one way they hope to continue to bring in some revenue and stay in the public’s eye during the pandemic.

While Newton said she can’t wait to open the theatre again, she said she doesn’t want to do so too early.

“I don’t think there would be any advantage to hurrying up just to make money. That would be very shortsighted and, in the end, we might end up in a situation where we can’t stay open,” Newton said.

The city’s 15-member recovery and renewal task force that was created to assist the city with plans to reopen held their first meeting on Friday morning.

Schewel said this group will play a key part in preparing city and county businesses to safely open their doors once the number of COVID-19 cases goes down.

“Every business wants to reopen, but every business wants to reopen safely,” Schewel said. “They all want to protect their employees, and they all want to protect their clients. So, we are expecting them to help us.”

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