Durham mayor delivers ‘stay-at-home’ order to slow COVID-19’s spread

Durham County News

DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) – Durham mayor has issued a “stay-at-home” order to curb the spread of COVID-19.

Mayor Steve Schewel said he has amended his March 20 state of emergency declaration to include the “stay-at-home” order.

The mayor said he shied away from calling it a “shelter in place” order due to that phrase’s connection with active shooter situations.

“This was not an easy decision to make but it was a necessary decision,” Schewel said.

Schewel acknowledged that many businesses in Durham are hurting right now.

But he said the earlier they act on this, the shorter the economic disruption will be.

However, businesses in Durham tell CBS 17 they are already feeling the impact.

Pizzeria Toro owner Gray Brooks said not being able to serve food inside has had a catastrophic impact on his restaurant business, even they have still been able to serve takeout.

“We had to lay off the entire team and we hired back a few to run this,” Brooks said.

Brooks said he is glad they can stay open under the order, but with each day he never knows what to expect from city and state officials.

“You really don’t know what’s coming until they tell you,” Brooks said.

At Bullseye Bicycle in Durham, bicycle mechanic Emmon Roth said the order is forcing them to no longer allow customers inside. Instead, if someone needs their bicycle worked on, they will have to drop it off at the curb.

“It will help us stay in business, but it will be more difficult for us to manage the bike shop,” Roth said.

Roth said Bullseye Bicycle hasn’t been hit hard yet, but he said this change will have an impact on their business.

“We’re just not really set up for that kind of thing,” Roth said. “It will be a little awkward transitioning into maintaining that level of separation.”

Mayor Schewel said the Durham Police Department will enforce the order. He said no one will get a ticket, but if authorities see large groups of people they will tell them to disperse.

The stay-at-home order does have exceptions.

Exceptions to the order will be allowed for those seeking medical treatment, buying food, or exercising outdoors.

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Essential workers, such as hospital and medical staff, law enforcement and firefighters, food service and grocery store employees, local government employees, etc., will be allowed to travel to work.

The order will not prohibit restaurants from providing take-out or delivery options.

It also does not prohibit day cares, homeless shelters, and government agencies from operating.

The order will be enforced by the Durham Police Department and is set to expire on April 30.

People are allowed to go outside for walking, hiking, running, biking, golfing and playing tennis.

Golfing and tennis can only be played if there is social distancing.

“I am concerned about this,” Schewel said of the golfing and tennis. “We will be monitoring this.”

He said he knows the stay-at-home order will cause hardships.

“These are agonizing decisions, not ones I was expecting to make when I was elected as mayor,” Schewel said.

The mayor’s announcement comes as North Carolina reports 504 cases of COVID-19. A total of 74 of those are in Durham County.

“If we are going to stop the spread of the virus, this is our window,” Schewel said.

A similar order for the county is expected in the coming days, the mayor said.

The order takes effect March 26 at 6 p.m. and will go through April 30th.

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