Dare County declares state of emergency; no coronavirus cases as of noon

Transmission electron microscopic image of an isolate from the first U.S. case of COVID-19.The spherical viral particles, colorized blue, contain cross-sections through the viral genome, seen as black dots. [Image courtesy CDC]

Following a meeting of the Dare County Control Group this morning, a state of emergency has been put in place to allow the county and individual towns to quickly implement restrictions necessary to help combat the spread of COVID-19.

At this time, the state of emergency restricts mass gatherings of 50 people or more, guidance that was established by the Centers for Disease Control on Sunday, March 15. A mass gathering does not include normal operations at airports, bus and train stations, medical facilities, libraries, shopping malls and centers, or other spaces where more than 50 persons are gathered.

It also does not include office environments, restaurants, factories, grocery stores or other retail establishments. Dare County is following all CDC and NCDHHS guidelines, therefore at this time, there are no further restrictions.

The Dare County Control Group will continue to meet and provide updates to the local community on a daily basis. Protecting the health of our community is the top priority during this unprecedented event. Officials are adhering to the guidance and recommendations of professionals from NCDHHS and CDC.

The Dare County Control Group has established a Joint Information Center to coordinate important communications from towns and agencies. Updated information and a list of the most frequently asked questions received by local officials is now available at darenc.com/covid19. You can sign up to receive news directly from Dare County at darenc.com/enotify and from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.

A local hotline has been established to answer questions the public may have regarding COVID-19. The hotline will open at 2 p.m. on Monday, March 16. Assistance and guidance can be provided on information regarding testing, travel restrictions, symptoms, and preparation efforts. To reach the hotline, please call 252.475.5008. The phone line will be staffed daily from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. and may be extended depending on call volume.

Dare County’s public health response to COVID-19 follows all state and federal guidance and orders. While the Governor’s order mandated school closures and prohibited mass gatherings, it did not implement any travel restrictions. If future orders from the Governor, or mitigation guidance from public health officials include travel restrictions, Dare County officials will take action to implement them.

To minimize the health impacts of COVID-19 in Dare County, the County is implementing a variety of emergency strategies to increase social distancing and slow the spread of this disease. The following Dare County facilities will be closed until further notice beginning at 2 p.m. today, Monday, March 16: the Dare County Center, Thomas A. Baum Senior Center, the Fessenden Center, and all Parks and Recreation facilities. Congregate and homebound delivered meal programs for older adults will continue by offering drive-by meal pick up. Please contact the Dare County Center or the Baum Center for more information. All Dare County Library locations will close at 2:00 p.m. today, March 16. All advisory board meetings that do not have remote capability have been cancelled. A complete list of cancellations and closures can be found at www.darenc.com/closures.

Dare County offices will remain open. However, in the interest of the safety of our visitors and staff, face to face contact will be limited. Before visiting Dare County offices, please check the website or call to verify if services can be received online or over the phone.

The Dare County Sheriff’s Office requests the use of their online services for requesting purchase permits and new or renewing a concealed handgun permit. Fingerprinting applicants will be done by appointment only. Please call 252.475.5980 to schedule an appointment.

The latest guidelines from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services recommend adults age 65 and older should stay at home as much as possible. For anyone contemplating travel, please review and adhere to the guidance. Consider all possible implications of COVID-19 on your travel.

In the interest of public safety and the welfare of our community, everyone is encouraged to practice social distancing.

Staying approximately 6 feet away from other people whenever possible.

Stay away from crowded places.

Reduce the number of human contacts you have.

Avoid people who are coughing or sneezing.

Stay home if you feel ill or are experiencing any symptoms.

Wash your hands often.

Dare County will continue to closely monitor this dynamic evolving situation. Staff are in close and regular contact with the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, North Carolina Emergency Management and the CDC. As of Monday, March 16 at 12 p.m., no individuals in Dare County have tested positive for COVID-19. There are currently 33 individuals that have tested positive for COVID-19 in North Carolina.