Editor’s note: This story was produced through a partnership between the INDY and The 9th Street Journal, which is published by journalism students at Duke University’s DeWitt Wallace Center for Media & Democracy.
Durham Mayor Steve Schewel’s “stay-at-home” order issued Wednesday requires city residents to stay at home unless they have very specific, approved reasons to leave.
The document is intended to prevent a global pandemic from spreading serious illness and loss of life here.
Italy has been ravaged with nearly 75,000 coronavirus cases and about 7,500 deaths. The United States could follow that path if communities don’t act to protect their residents, the mayor said.
“We are fortunate that the numbers in North Carolina and Durham are still low and we hope to keep it that way,” Schewel said during a press conference Wednesday.
Yet many people, particularly young people, had been “unhealthy and unsafe” by gathering in large numbers rather than practicing social distancing.
After announcing the stay-at-home order during a press conference streamed on several platforms, Durham officials spread word of the changes on social media.[/caption]
Schewel said he closely crafted Durham’s 14-page order with City Attorney Kim Rehberg while looking over orders from Mecklenburg County, home to Charlotte, and the village of Clemmons, near Winston-Salem, because both apply in North Carolina.
All three orders ban public and private gatherings of more than 10 people. They require non-essential businesses to close. Grocery stores and pharmacies are among those exempt, along with restaurants serving take-out, drive-through and delivery meals only. Gas stations and other commerce vital to transportation can remain open.
But Durham’s order differs from the others in this state and elsewhere in the country a bit. Here are five ways.
You probably won’t get arrested for violating the order
Maryland isn’t messing around with its coronavirus response.
Gov. Larry Hogan said last week that police were prepared to arrest people for violating restrictions on businesses and gatherings even before he issued guidance similar to “stay at home” orders across the country.
Schewel skipped a law-and-order tone when he announced Durham’s order.
Police have the power to enforce the order, he said, but the plans are not to arrest, cite or penalize anyone for violating it. Schewel didn’t rule out further action being taken for egregious offenses, though.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, contending with the country’s worst outbreak, struck a different tone in announcing his order.
“These provisions will be enforced. These are not helpful hints,” Cuomo said. “These are legal provisions.”
Not a ‘shelter-in-place’ order
Before digging into the details of Durham’s order, Schewel was careful to distinguish it from a “shelter-in-place” requirement like one California implemented last week.
The term “shelter-in-place” is often associated with shooters and nuclear attacks. This name might engender fear, he explained.
“This isn’t something we need to be afraid of if we act,” Schewel said.
No explicit curfew
As part of its “safer-at-home” order, Hillsborough County in Florida, home to Tampa, will implement a mandatory curfew between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. on weekdays and for 24 hours on weekends.
Durham’s approach, on the other hand, doesn’t specify hours. It bans residents from being in public or partaking in business in public, except for travel for exempted essential purposes, at all times.
New Jersey implemented a similar policy, but Gov. Phil Murphy described on Saturday it as a 24-hour curfew.
“We want you off the roads. That’s basically 24 hours. We don’t want you out there, period,” Murphy said.
Durham’s order is hyper-detailed
Durham’s stay-at-home order is 14 pages long, close in length and similar in wording to Mecklenburg’s 13-page document.
The Durham order brings lots of specificity when describing exemptions, which include golf and tennis, with social distancing required. Golf is deemed “non-critical” in some parts of Florida. Mecklenburg allows it. Clemmons is silent on that sport.
Weddings, funerals allowed
Washington State, which also has been hard hit, has canceled weddings and funerals. Most jurisdictions, including Durham, do not go that far.
Durham is allowing weddings and funerals, granted that they follow relevant restrictions in the order.
This indicates those with only 10 or fewer people practicing social distancing will be allowed.
Durham’s order goes into effect Thursday at 6 p.m. and runs through April 30. Schewel stressed that it could be extended or shortened.
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