On March 27, 2020, NC Governor Roy Cooper issued executive order 121 entitled the “Stay at Home” order which asked residents in all 100 NC counties to stay at home unless engaging in essential needs. This proclamation also prohibited public gatherings of 10 or more people in an effort to combat still rising COVID-19 coronavirus numbers in North Carolina.
The proclamation also defined essential business and non-essential business and allows for law enforcement action in the event that the public does not voluntarily comply with the order.
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Soon after, an emerging conflict arose in Carteret County NC (and I assume all tourism areas at Eastern NC beaches) relating to second homes owned by people who’s main residence is in another county, but they legally own and pay taxes on these second homes in the county.
The conflict arose from the idea that if NC is essentially going to be shut-down due to coronavirus, why would people with second homes not migrate from their main residential areas in Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill, Rocky Mount, and other areas to ride out the order at our rural, quiet and beautiful beaches?
For many in Carteret County, there was an immediate concern that people from the triad, where there is plentiful health care resources, will travel to our rural area potentially bringing undiagnosed cases to areas that right now have very small infection rates.
Additionally, these concerns took on a more tangible and concrete level when many began asking if rural county tourism areas can handle the health needs of the public under pandemic situations in the event that large numbers of people start to become sick.
Since learning about this concern, we decided to ask Carteret Health Care spokeswoman Michelle Lee and the Carteret County Health Department Director Stephanie Cannon to give a statement on these concerns.
Our Email to these individuals:
Good morning Director Cannon and Mrs. Lee,
Since Governor Roy Cooper declared a “Stay-at-Home” order effective Monday, March 30 at 5 pm, there is large group of people on social media that are full-time residents who are concerned about the potential for 2nd home owners (who pay taxes) to come to the beach to stay in their 2nd home during this time. What specifically makes this group of people think this is a possibility is undetermined.
The questions I am requesting information on are, and assuming a major increase of Coronavirus confirmed cases requiring medical intervention:
Given that 50% of the homes in Carteret County NC are 2nd homes:
1. Is the number of respirators and ventilators available to the hospital based on 100% of these homes being “lived in”?
2. Is there a potential for greater public health crisis for the county if X number of people migrated to the area for a mini-vacation during the Stay-At-Home order even if they have a legal right to do so?
As of publication, there is no response back from either the hospital spokeswoman or the health department director.
To compound these concerns, many full-time residents in Carteret County began sending pictures on social media of a considerable number of boats along Taylors Creek and Shackleford Banks which clearly showed people enjoying themselves in public amid the coronavirus pandemic.
In thinking about this difficult conflict, I quickly realized that until either the NC Governor or local Carteret County officials mandate what is considered “a home”, this issue will likely continue to be a unresolved concern.
On one hand, under the current stay at home order on coronavirus, the governor can not constitutionally decide that someone from Raleigh can’t travel to a legally owned home before March 30 at 5 pm that they pay taxes on provided they follow the other declarations spelled out in the current order.
But, on the other hand, could the potential doubling of the population in our rural area with VERY limited health resources create a public health emergency above and beyond what is already happening?
It will be interesting to see how this plays out at the local, state, or federal level.
Will this issue become a public health learning experience for the next pandemic or large scale disaster, or will it evolve in to a aggravated public health emergency above what we have now?