On Friday, March 27, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper implemented Executive Order No. 121; Stay at home order and strategic directions for North Carolina in response to increasing COVID-19 cases, effective starting 5 p.m. on Monday, March 30.  

The first section of the order, Stay At Home or Place of Residence, instructs individuals currently in the state of N.C. to stay at home, and while using shared spaces or outdoor spaces when outside their homes, to maintain social distancing of at least six feet from other people, except family or household members.

The stay at home order also states that all persons may leave their home or place of residence only for essential activities, government operations, or to participate in or access essential businesses and operations.

The stay at home order limits travel for essential activities, including health and safety, to obtain necessary supplies and services, for outdoor activity, for certain types of work, to take care of others, to travel to and from places of worship, to receive goods and services, to places to residence, and for volunteering with organizations that provide charitable and social services. 

The second section of the order, COVID-19 Essential Businesses and Operations, lists 30 businesses that are considered as essential, and reiterates to, in all activities, observe social distance of at least six feet from others and in groups of 10 or less. The essential business criteria are as follows. 

•Businesses that meet social distance requirements, betweens its employees and between customers, except at point of sale.

•Businesses operating in federal critical infrastructure sectors.

•Healthcare and public health operations, which includes facilities that support the healthcare industry. This includes but is not limited to, hospitals, clinics, dental offices, pharmacies, laboratories, eye care centers, organizations collecting blood, dietary supplement retailers, home healthcare services providers, mental health and substance use providers and distributors of medical equipment. Also included are veterinary care and healthcare services provided to animals. 

•Human service operations, which includes long-term care facilities, child care centers, family child care homes, residential settings and shelters for adults, seniors, children, and/or people with developmental disabilities, intellectual disabilities, substance use disorders, and/or mental illness; businesses that provide food, shelter, social services and other necessities of life for economically disadvantaged or otherwise needy individuals.

•Essential infrastructure operations includes food and beverage production, distribution, fulfillment centers, storage facilities; construction in response to public health emergencies, hospitals, long term care facilities, public works, schools, and essential commercial and housing construction; building and grounds maintenance including landscaping; airport operations; operation and maintenance of utilities, including water, sewer and gas; electrical; roads, highways, railroads and public transportation; flood control; solid waste and recycling collection and removal; and internet, video and telecommnications systems.

•Essential government operations, which means all services provided by the state or any municipality, township, county, political subdivision, board, commission, or agency of government and needed to ensure the continuing operation of the government agencies or to provide for or support the health, safety, and welfare of the public. 

•Stores that sell groceries and medicine.

•Food, beverage production and agriculture.

•Organizations that provide charitable and social services.

•Religious entities.

•Media.

•Gas stations and businesses needed for transportation.

•Financial and insurance institutions.

•Home improvement, hardware and supply stores.

•Critical trades, including building and construction tradespeople.

•Mail, post, shipping, logistics, delivery, and pick-up services.

•Educational institutions, for the purposes of facilitating remote learning, performing critical research, or performing essential functions. 

•Laundry services. 

•Restaurants for consumption off-premises. 

•Supplies to work from home, including businesses that sell, manufacture, or supply office supplies.

•Supplies for COVID-19 essential businesses and operations, which includes businesses that sell, manufacture, support, or supply other COVID-19 essential businesses and operations with services and materials necessary to operate.

•Transportation, including airlines, taxis, automobile dealers, transportation network providers such a Uber and Lyft, and vehicle rental services. 

•Home-based care and services.

•Residential facilities and shelters.

•Professional services, such as legal services, accounting, insurance, professional engineering and architectural services.

•Manufacture, distribution, and supply chain for critical products and industries. 

•Defense and military contractors.

•Hotels and motels.

•Funeral services.

•Additional COVID-19 essential retail businesses such as electronic retailers that sell and service cell phones and computers, lawn and garden equipment retailers, book stores that sell educational material, liquor stores, retail functions of gas stations and convenience stores, retail located within healthcare facilities, and pet and feed stores. 

All businesses are expected, to the extent practicable, to maintain social distancing requirements, which includes maintaining at least six feet of distance from other individuals; washing hands using soap and water for at least 20 seconds as frequently as possible or the use of hand sanitizer; regularly cleaning high-touch surfaces; and facilitating online or remote access by customers if possible.

Businesses that are excluded from the list who believe that they may be essential may direct requests to be included to the N.C. Department of Revenue. All businesses that have previously been closed or restricted, such as salons, schools, and restaurants, are expected to continue to follow their previous restrictions. 

Section 3 of Executive Order No. 121, rescinds and replaces Orders Nos. 117 and 120 as follows: mass gathering is defined as any event or convening that brings together more than 10 persons in a single room or space at the same time, but does not include normal operations at airports, bus and train stations, medical facilities, libraries, shopping malls and centers.  

Funerals are permitted to include no more than 50 people, while observing social distancing requirements to the extent practicable.

Executive Order No. 121 issues the provisions to state and local law enforcement officers to enforce the order. A violation of this executive order may be subject to prosecution. 

Local businesses affected by the stay at home order, according to the Lake Gaston Regional Chamber of Commerce, include Lake Gaston Outfitters, which has closed its doors and moved to an online platform. Creative Designs in Roanoke Rapids will be closing for the time being. Bills Marine is staying open, but businesses like Ladlees Golf Carts will be closing through April. Poplar Point Marine is also open and selling gas from its dock; the gas pumps are now unlocked and there are trash cans and sanitizer on hand. 

For regular updates on businesses that are open, closed, or adjusting their hours, follow the Lake Gaston Regional Chamber of Commerce Facebook page, or call them at 252-586-5711.

For a complete list of essential businesses, see Executive Order 121 with this story online at lakegastongazette-observer.com.