Answers to Stay at Home Order FAQ for North Carolina

Beginning at 5:00 p.m. on March 30, 2020, a Stay at Home Order issued by Governor Roy Cooper on March 27 went into effect. This Executive Order is in response to the continued spread of COVID-19 throughout North Carolina. As of right now, the restrictions last until April 30. 

How does this Stay at Home Order change your daily life? What does it mean for your business?

Let’s walk through the restrictions and exceptions with this stay at home FAQ.

Daily Life Stay at Home FAQ

North Carolinians are ordered to stay at home. Does this mean you absolutely cannot leave your house? No. You are allowed to leave your home for essential activities. There are certain activities the Governor acknowledges that people need to continue to engage to maintain a healthy life. 

  • Essential activities include:
    • Anything required for the health and safety of those in your household. You still can drive to the pharmacy for your prescriptions. You can still go to the doctor or take a pet to the vet. This also allows you to leave your home to help those who cannot leave their home. You may leave your home to care for your Great Aunt Carole who cannot leave her home herself. 
    • Going out to receive necessary supplies and services is an essential activity. This means you can go shopping for groceries, pet food, cleaning supplies, car parts, tools, etc. You can go to the post office. If you need something to be able to work from home, you can go get it. 
    • Outdoor activities are essential. You do not have to literally stay inside. Go on a walk with the dog. Ride your bike. Mow the lawn. Play golf. Just make sure to continue practicing social distancing while outside if others are around. Avoid stuff that lots of people touch like playground equipment. 
    • Going to work is allowed if your work is considered “Essential” under this Executive Order. See below for which businesses are included.
    • You are allowed to leave your home to take care of others. Taking care of others is a broad exception allowing you to transport other people and animals and you can even attend weddings and funerals as long as the rules for social distancing are followed and no more than 10 people are gathering. If you have to travel because of child custody or visitation issues, that is fine as well.
    • If you are traveling to or from an “Essential Business or Operation” that is considered an essential activity.
    • Finally, leaving the home to travel to a place of worship or to volunteer somewhere is considered essential. The government cannot shut down places of worship because of religious freedom established in the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights. However, social distancing and mass gathering rules still apply. 

Basically, you are not trapped in your home like a prisoner. Make sure if you are leaving, it is something essential to maintaining your basic daily life. You need to eat. Your car needs gas. You don’t have to leave elderly or other vulnerable family members to fend for themselves. We can still live comfortable, fulfilling lives under this Executive Order and if the restrictions are followed and exceptions are not abused, we can slow the spread of this virus and keep our hospitals from being overwhelmed.

Businesses Stay at Home FAQ

What does the Stay at Home Order mean for your business? Not all North Carolina businesses are closed. Those businesses defined as essential can continue to operate.

  • Here is a summary of essential business and operations:
    • Businesses that can follow social distancing requirements may stay open regardless of the products or services provided. This means social distancing must happen between and among employees and between employees and customers.
    • The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has a list of businesses that are considered critical for federal  infrastructure. This includes healthcare, financial businesses, energy workers, farmers, and more. If you are not sure if your job qualifies, here is the full list
    • All healthcare and public health operations should remain open. 
    • Human service businesses may remain open. This includes assisted living facilities, child care centers, rehabilitation services, and other businesses that provide assistance to others including those with disabilities or the economically disadvantaged. This includes residential facilities. Home based care is also considered an essential operation.
    • Essential Infrastructure Operations is defined broadly to include any operation that keeps infrastructure from being interrupted. This includes delivery of food and beverage, construction, landscaping, airport operations, waste removal, and more. 
    • Essential government operations may continue. Defense and military contractors are also essential.
    • If you own or work at a store that sells groceries and/or medicine, you are essential. This includes pet food and alcohol. Laundrymats and dry cleaners are also allowed to stay open. 
    • Agricultural business can continue to operate. This includes kennels, farms, shelters or other organizations that provide the daily care needed for animals.
    • Social services and charities are essential whether secular or religious.
    • Religious entities like churches, mosques, and temples are essential under this executive order. However, mass gatherings are still not allowed and social distancing must be followed. 
    • Gas stations and businesses needed for transportation are allowed to continue operation. This includes car dealerships. Transportation companies like taxis, airlines, and other transportation providers are also essential. 
    • If you are part of the media, you may continue to work.
    • Home improvement stores, hardware stores, and critical trades like construction workers and other tradesmen and tradeswomen are allowed to continue their operations.
    • Post offices and other shipping companies are deemed essential.
    • Professional services that are considered essential include accounting services, legal services, insurance, engineering and more. As an essential business, HREM will continue to be here for our clients providing legal services during these trying times. 
    • Hotels and motels can continue to operate. 

If your business is deemed not essential by the Stay at Home Executive Order, you are still allowed to continue minimum basic operations. This includes activities necessary to maintain the value of the business’s inventory, preserve the condition of the business’s facility and equipment, ensure security, process payroll and employee benefits, and activities to support employees who are working remotely. Keep in mind that employees must comply with social distancing requirements, to the extent possible, while carrying out minimum basic operations.

If you are not sure if your business is essential based on the definitions in the Stay at Home Executive Order, the attorneys at Hornthal, Riley, Ellis, & Maland L.L.P. are here to help. If you believe your business may be essential even if it is not explicitly included in this executive order, there is a process to request for your business to be allowed to continue operations. Contact us for assistance with this. 

There are so many employment issues involved with the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, there is a new federal law mandating leave beyond what the Family and Medical Leave Act normally requires. We have broken down that change and other federally mandated provisions related to COVID-19 for you here

Additional Questions

The team of Hornthal, Riley, Ellis & Maland L.L.P. is ready to assist you in protecting your family, business, and workforce during this unique and challenging time. Legal issues and guidance are continuing to evolve, and we encourage you to contact a member of our team for any additional guidance or assistance. Our offices are continuing to remain open on our usual schedule, Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.