GREENSBORO — Whether they live in a city, town or an unincorporated area, residents of Guilford County will be under a stay-at-home order that takes effect at 5 p.m. Friday and aims to rein in the accelerating spread of the new coronavirus.
The order announced in a joint news conference Wednesday by Guilford County and the cities of Greensboro and High Point bans all non-essential travel and work through April 16.
“We are asking our residents to work with us as we work to hold back the spread of this disease,” said Jeff Phillips, the chairman of the Guilford County Board of Commissioners.
The order requires people “to stay at their place of residence except that they may leave to provide or receive certain essential services,” go to work in “essential businesses and governmental services,” and pursue other necessary functions.
“Many people will be impacted by this decision, and it was the most difficult decision I’ve made as your mayor,” Greensboro Mayor Nancy Vaughan said. “There will be those who say we overstepped our authority and those who say we did not go far enough.”
Officials of the three local governments unveiled this latest development in their battle with COVID-19, which has spread to more than 500 North Carolina residents including at least 22 people in Guilford, at a Wednesday afternoon news conference in Greensboro.
Also Wednesday, Kontoor Brands, the maker of Wrangler and Lee jeans, said a worker at its corporate headquarters in downtown Greensboro has tested positive for COVID-19, but it was not clear if that person was counted in the official state tally for the county.
The stay-at-home order comes a day after the county said it had seen its first community spread transmission of the illness and the same day North Carolina reported the first two deaths in the state due to COVID-19, one a person from Cabarrus County and the second a person from Virginia who was traveling through the state. The Cabarrus County patient was over 70 years old with underlying conditions, while the Virginia patient was over 60, according to a news release, which did not include further details about them.
About 30 people are currently hospitalized because of the virus, authorities said, and some are in critical condition.
Guilford joined several other counties and municipalities this week in ordering residents to stay home unless they absolutely need to go out, including Winston-Salem, Clemmons, Mecklenburg County, the city of Durham, Pitt County and Madison County. Wake County, which includes Raleigh and ranks No. 2 in population behind Mecklenburg,, plans to issue a similar order very soon, said Greg Ford, the chairman of the county’s Board of Commissioners.
In Guilford, the authority to impose the stay-at-home order stems from a March 13 declaration of emergency signed jointly by the leaders of Guilford County, Greensboro, High Point, Gibsonville, Jamestown, Summerfield, Stokesdale, Oak Ridge, Pleasant Garden, Sedalia and Whitsett.
At Wednesday’s announcement, Phillips, Vaughan and High Point Mayor Jay Wagner said the order comes after in-depth discussions with senior Cone Health administrators and was not aimed at creating a “police state.”
The chief executive of Cone Health, Terry Akin, said in a separate news release Wednesday afternoon that he was grateful to the local leaders for their actions.
“We have a window of opportunity to actually minimize the spread of this virus,” Akin said. “Today’s action will save lives and reduce COVID-19 cases.”
Phillips said that local officials began moving toward Wednesday’s decision two days earlier in a meeting with Akin and two other medical experts from the health system.
He said no single event or development triggered the further tightening of rules. Earlier this week local officials limiting public gatherings to 10 people and banned the use of public and some private playgrounds.
Vaughan said officials became concerned that if they did not act more assertively, the highly contagious disease would overwhelm area hospitals.
The declaration contains a laundry list of exceptions for workers in business and government, ranging from health care, law enforcement and public safety to groceries, pharmacies, critical manufacturing and other businesses key to maintaining the economy.
“This is not a full shutdown. It’s not a lockdown,” Wagner said, noting that people who do not work in an essential profession can still go out for such activities as buying groceries, getting medicine, helping family and friends, and walking their dogs.
Phillips said exceptions also would include parents helping children continue their education by going to schools — closed countywide by state mandate over virus fears — in order to borrow laptops and other technology used for distance learning or to make use of Wi-Fi hot spots located in eight school parking lots.
Phillips said residents with questions about whether their particular reason for leaving home is good enough can call a new county hotline at 336-641-7527 after 2 p.m. today when it goes live.
He said local officials also plan to post answers to frequently asked questions about the new order at guilfordcountync.gov.
If it were absolutely necessary, law-enforcement officers could charge someone who willfully violated the order with a misdemeanor, said Don Campbell, the county’s emergency management director.
But he said officers likely would be doing “a lot of education,” more so than taking violators into custody.
“Our goal in this process is to get people to stay home, not to put people in jail and issue citations,” Campbell said.
Man charged with assault in December shooting
A Winston-Salem man was arrested Wednesday in connection with the December shooting of another man in the city’s eastern section, court records show.
Quinton Rashad Sykes, 27, of East 28th Street was charged with assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill, inflicting serious injury and possession of a firearm by a felon, according to arrest warrants.
Sykes also was served with an order for arrest on outstanding charges of possession of marijuana up to ½ ounce and possession of marijuana paraphernalia, both misdemeanors, according to other warrants.
Sykes is accused of shooting Raymont Richardson Jr. on Dec. 25 with a 9 mm handgun at the Rolling Hills Apartment Complex in the 700 block of Ferrell Court, according to an arrest warrant and a police news release.
Winston-Salem police found Richardson with a gunshot wound about 1:15 a.m. in the apartment complex, police said. Richardson, who was 35 at that time, was treated at a local hospital for his injuries, which were not life-threatening.
Sykes also is accused of possessing a handgun after spending nearly nine years in prison for a 2009 conviction in Forsyth Superior Court of robbery with a deadly weapon, another warrant says.
Sykes was being held Wednesday night in the Forsyth County Jail with his bond set at $51,500, a court record shows. Sykes is scheduled to appear in court on April 9.
Waffle House has closed its Clemmons location at 6203 Ramada Drive.
As of 11 a.m. Wednesday, Waffle House had closed 418 locations but is keeping 1,574 locations open in the United States.
So far, the five other Waffle House locations in Forsyth County remain open for takeout. That includes three restaurants in Winston-Salem, one in Walkertown and one in Kernersville.
Other area Waffle Houses that have closed include the King and Jonesville locations, and two of the locations in Greensboro, at 510 Gallimore Road and 2505 Randleman Road.
The number of closings of Waffle House restaurants has continued to rise over the last two days. On Monday, the number was 365.
Waffle House is based in Georgia, and most of its restaurants are in the Southeast. It is known for serving breakfast 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
People can check specific closings by visiting locations.wafflehouse.com.