Some counties and towns go beyond stay-at-home order with curfews

Gov. Roy Cooper delivers a briefing on North Carolina’s coronavirus pandemic response Friday, April 3, 2020 at the NC Emergency Operations Center in Raleigh. Photo via NC Dept. of Public Safety

RALEIGH — Some counties and towns have begun implementing overnight curfews that run for the length of Gov. Roy Cooper’s stay at home order.

The city of Fayetteville has instituted a nightly curfew from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. The curfew began April 1 and, unless rescinded early, will not end until April 29. A citation for violating the curfew is a class 2 misdemeanor with a fine not to exceed $500.

“This is a fast-moving situation that requires to do things that we haven’t done,” said Fayetteville mayor Mitch Colvin during a March 31 press conference.

In his remarks announcing the curfew, Colvin said that Governor Cooper’s order left room for counties and municipalities to “make adjustments to the order.”  

Colvin said during the press conference that social gatherings have gone on that have been discourages and admitted he had “not verified” all of the claims regarding these gatherings.

“This is an attempt by the local government to discourage large social gatherings. Also, private, public social gatherings are included in this,” said Colvin, while referring to house parties or house gatherings.

“Folks, all of that are things that we need you to put on hold,” Colvin said. Later on, he said the “sharp increases” in COVID-19 cases in Cumberland County had also prompted him to take the action.

Colvin said he spoke to the city council but that the emergency declaration gave him the power to enact the curfew.

When asked what his take was a curfew being an “extreme order,” Colvin said it was not something he was taking lightly and that he had “looked at it, debated it and contemplated it for several days.”

“I would rather err on the side of caution and save lives in the city of Fayetteville than to every have an outbreak here that costs us lives or our healthcare system to collapse,” said Colvin.

According to the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) on the curfew order, “The City is seeking voluntary cooperation with the curfew. If voluntary cooperation is not achieved, the Police Department has the authority to enforce the curfew.”

The curfew was created in an amendment to the city of Fayetteville’s state of emergency declaration. An additional amendment followed, which clarified the curfew did allow for a family to be outside on their own property.

“All public and private gatherings, of any number of people, occurring outside a single household or residential, unit are prohibited. Nothing in this declaration shall prohibit the gathering of members of a single household or single residential unit.”

The FAQ also clarifies that during curfew hours, citizens cannot hunt, run or shop for food.

Other areas of the state also have instituted overnight curfews such as Columbus and Franklin. Cities and municipalities within those counties and elsewhere have issued curfews of their own.

Monroe, located in Union County, has a curfew that runs from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. The Monroe order, which been in effect since March 16, bars anyone 16 years of age or younger from gathering in public areas. It took effect March 16 and will be in effect “until modified or rescinded.”

The town of Fairmont, which is located in Robeson County, also has a curfew from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. specifically aimed for children under the age of 17. Their neighbor to the west, Scotland County, instituted a curfew from 10 p.m to 6 a.m. 

Town of Gibson officials in Alamance County said a curfew has been imposed because there were too many kids were hanging around town due school being closed. According to the 2010 census, the town has a population of just 507 people.

In Columbus County, the sheriff asked the county commissioners to implement a 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew.

“I requested the curfew because our County Manager did not have a plan in place nor did he want to make a decision. Folks this is a VERY serious issue. COVID is more contagious than the flu and is predicted to kill over 100,000 people. Therefore, to protect the citizens of Columbus county I asked for something to be put in place that law enforcement could enforce,” said Columbus County sheriff Jody Greene said in a Facebook post.

Greene also took aim at Gov. Cooper’s stay at home order which he characterized as having “no enforceable measures for law enforcement” and wrote that a “gummy bear has more teeth than the Governor’s stay at home order.”

According to a report by WECT, sheriff Greene declined their request for an on-camera interview and had “not yet answered questions as to why the curfew was necessary.”

Franklin County instituted a 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew went into effect Sunday, April 5, and will run through the same end date of the governor’s stay at home order of April 29. 

Not everyone is going along with county level curfew orders, such as the town of Youngsville in Franklin County.

“I would very respectfully like to clarify the county’s curfew shall not apply in the corporate limits of the Town of Youngsville, and the town has no intention of instituting a curfew at this time,” mayor Fonzie Flowers wrote in an email to Sidney Dunston, chair of the Franklin County Board of Commissioners.

Halifax County’s state of emergency declaration now includes a curfew nightly from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. Roanoke Rapids mayor Emery Doughtie issued a curfew for the city that mirrors the county level curfew. Both curfews are in place until further notice.