Face coverings, 10-person limits on outdoor gatherings in Durham continue as restaurants, salons prepare to open

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- Durham is joining the rest of North Carolina in relaxing coronavirus protection measures starting June 1.

Gov. Roy Cooper moved the state into Phase 2 of reopening on May 22, but Durham declined to make the same move. The city and county took a more reserved approach to reopening, because it had seen a higher per capita infection rate than many places in the state.

Friday, Durham announced plans to replace the Stay-At-Home order with a Safer-At-Home order.

Count Commissioner Wendy Jacobs said cases are growing at a rate of 3.2% every day--roughly in line with the state's growth rate. Last week, cases in the county were growing at 3.6%, which prompted the more cautious move.

The order will go into effect at 8 a.m. June 1.

It will allow breweries, taprooms, distilleries and restaurants to reopen at 50 percent capacity.

In addition, Durham Mayor Steve Schewel said city officials, Downtown Durham and local restaurants are working together to come up with a plan for expanded outdoor seating in city streets, on sidewalks, in parking lots and in parks. However, he said those plans are pending review from the ABC Commission and guidance from that agency on alcohol sales under each of those conditions.
Barber shops and salons will also be allowed to open. Realtors can also accompany potential buyers and inspectors into homes, with current sanitation protocols still in place.

Private pools can open on June 1, however, Durham Parks and Recreation Department will not open public pools this year.

However, Durham's Safer-At-Home order is still more restrictive than the state's in a number of ways.

While the state's order limits outdoor gatherings to 25 people, Durham's order restricts outdoor gatherings to 10 people. Residents are not allowed to gather with non-household members indoors, except for religious worship services, funerals and weddings.

Face coverings are still required in places where social distancing guidelines cannot be followed in Durham County.

In addition, Durham leaders noted that the order maintains the "stay at home standard"--meaning residents are only allowed to leave for specific purposes outlined above and in the previous stay-at-home order.

"We're really urging everyone only to leave home for important trips," Schewel said "If you don't have to be out and about, we urge you to stay home. You're safer at home."

Schewel clarified he wasn't critical of Gov. Roy Cooper's Safer-at-Home order, and in fact commended the governor's decision making along side Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen. However, he said that because Durham is an urban area with different demographics than the rest of the state, the county has to take a more nuanced approach.

Schewel and Jacobs also both highlighted the specific impact of the virus on the Latinx community within Durham. Though the Hispanic community makes up 14% of the county's population, 34% of COVID-19 cases are people who identify as Hispanic, Jacobs said. In addition, of all cases reported in May, 57.67% were Hispanic of Latino, according to the county's COVID-19 information dashboard.

While both Schewel and Jacobs said they recognized the economic impact of the shutdown on the lives and livelihoods of residents who had to close their businesses or lost their jobs, they said public health and safety is their top priority.

"What we want to do in Durham County is make sure we can reopen and stay open," Jacobs said.

As of 1 p.m., Durham County officials said there are 1,437 known COVID-19 cases in the county and 47 deaths.
Copyright © 2020 WTVD-TV. All Rights Reserved.