Governor Cooper Issues Statewide Stay-at-Home Order; Identifies Essential Agricultural and Food Businesses

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[View full announcement from NCDHHS]

Governor Roy Cooper ordered people in the state of North Carolina to stay at home for thirty days, until April 29, 2020, in another step to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

Governor Cooper’s Executive Order No. 121 takes effect on Monday, March 30, at 5:00 p.m. and reduces the size of gatherings to 10 people. The Order provides for essential businesses to continue to operate while prioritizing social distancing measures. The Order has the force of law and will be enforced in all 100 counties statewide.

“To continue our aggressive battle against COVID-19, I have signed a Stay at Home Order for the entire state of North Carolina. Though it is difficult we must do this to slow the disease spread,” said Governor Cooper. “We need our medical system to be able to care for the friends and family we know will become seriously ill from the virus.”

The Governor noted that three North Carolinians have died due to COVID-19 and the state has 763 confirmed cases of the virus in 60 counties. He called on all North Carolinians to protect themselves by staying home and following social distancing guidelines. North Carolina is now considered to have widespread transmission of the virus, which means people who have tested positive cannot trace where they were exposed to the virus.

The Order directs people to stay at home except to visit essential businesses, to exercise outdoors or to help a family member. Specifically, the order bans gatherings of more than 10 people and directs everyone to physically stay at least six feet apart from others.

Unless noted in the order, previous closures and orders stand as written, as do local government orders in cities and counties. Frequently Asked Questions about the Order can be found here:

Frequently Asked Questions for North Carolina’s Stay At Home Order

Take note of the definitions of “essential businesses and operations” outlined within the Order, which make broad accommodations for agricultural and food industry activities.

Section 2. COVID-19 Essential Businesses and Operations

  1. Essential Infrastructure Operations. This includes food and beverage production, distribution, fulfillment centers, and storage facilities. This also includes building and grounds management and maintenance including landscaping.
  1. Essential Governmental Operations. This means all services provided by the State and needed to ensure the continuing operation of the government agency.
  1. Stores that sell groceries and medicine. This includes certified farmers markets and farm and produce stands.
  1. Food, beverage production, and agriculture. Food and beverage manufacturing, production, processing, and cultivation, including farming, livestock, fishing, forestry, baking and other production agriculture, including cultivation, marketing, production and distribution of animals and goods for consumption; and businesses that provide food, shelter, services and other necessities of life for animals, including animal shelters, rescues, shelters, kennels and adoption facilities.
  1. Gas stations and businesses needed for transportation. This includes gas stations, auto supply, sales, tire, auto-repair, roadside assistance, and towing services and farm equipment.
  1. Critical trades. This includes exterminators, cleaning and janitorial staff for commercial and governmental properties, landscaping and other service providers who provide services that are necessary to maintaining the safety, sanitation and essential operation of residences and COVID-19 essential businesses and operations.
  1. Supplies for COVID-19 Essential Businesses and Operations. Businesses that sell, manufacture, support or supply other COVID-19 essential businesses and operations with the service or materials necessary to operate, which does include food, food additives, ingredients and components, and food and beverages.
  1. Manufacture, distribution, and supply chain for critical products and industries. Manufacturing companies, distributors and supply chain companies producing and supplying essential products and services in and for industries such as agriculture, food, and beverage.
  1. Additional COVID-19 Essential Retail Businesses. Specifically lists lawn and garden equipment retailers and pet and feed stores.

If you do not think your business is included in the essential services list, and you think it should be, you may apply online at the N.C. Department of Revenue to be designated essential.

Until your exemption is reviewed, you may operate as long as your business can accommodate social distancing in your workplace.

Written By

Justin Moore, N.C. Cooperative ExtensionJustin MooreDirector of Marketing and Communications, NC State Extension Call Justin E-mail Justin Extension Administration
NC State Extension, NC State University
Updated on Mar 29, 2020
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