How much further can COVID-19 restrictions go?

RALEIGH — Dramatic stories and incidents related to COVID-19 stay-at-home orders are popping up all over the country.

In Elizabeth, New Jersey, the mayor has deployed drones that have sirens and an automated message telling people to disperse or they will be fined.

A Colorado man was handcuffed by police for allegedly not obeying social distancing guidelines, yet he was playing tee-ball in a deserted public park with only his wife and daughter.

Michigan’s stay-at-home order allows civil fines up to $1,000 for people and businesses found violating social distancing rules. An extension of that order bans selling fruit and vegetable plants and seed packets.

After Gov. Roy Cooper issued a stay-at-home order, North Carolina started to have some stories of its own.

Issued on March 27, executive order 121 made it mandatory for all North Carolinians to stay inside their homes from 5 p.m. March 30 through April 29 unless engaging in approved “essential” activities, such as shopping for food, seeking medical help or getting necessary supplies.

N.C. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen, in a press conference on April 1, said, “We fully respect local communities going further than the Governor’s order to encourage their communities to do as much social distancing as possible.”

And many communities around the state have indeed gone further.

The use of overnight curfews have been put into place in cities and towns like Fayetteville, Fairmont, Monroe and Gibson.

Mayor James Reid of Andrews had area law enforcement set up roadblocks and barricades to keep people out of his town.

The Wake County sheriff attempted to halt pistol permit purchases and related services. A few days later, the sheriff was forced to rescind that decision after a civil rights lawsuit was filed against him, bolstered by new guidance from the Trump Administration designating firearms as an essential industry.

In Guilford County, members of the pro-life group Love Life have been arrested multiple times while praying and providing pregnancy counseling in an abortion clinic parking lot. The men were accused of violating social distancing and stay-at-home orders.

In Surf City, officials are preventing property owners from staying on their properties if they are not year-round residents.

A similar situation to Surf City’s actions has arisen in Dare and Currituck counties, resulting in the filing of a federal lawsuit by six property owners whose permanent residences are in neighboring states.

Law-enforcement checkpoints have been set up on roads leading into various towns and counties.

The town of Beaufort has a chokepoint near I-70 to repel non-residents. One needs a valid form of government-issued ID with a Carteret County address, a COVID-19 Entry Pass issued by the town or documents proving you are an essential worker or are performing an essential service.

Ocracoke is also requiring documentation in order to gain entry to the town.

The public’s use of the Atlantic Ocean has been banned by Atlantic Beach, Salter Path, Indian Beach and Emerald Isle. In a joint press release, the towns said “swimming, surfing, kiting,” and “non-motorized recreational water access” are all prohibited.

Wrightsville Beach officials already closed beaches to the public but will now also be fining violators up to $500. If one includes court costs, the fine jumps to $650.

Officials in Wilkesboro and North Wilkesboro announced on April 8 that only one person per family will be allowed entry into any stores. Children can only accompany them if no other suitable person can watch them.

Last week, Cooper issued a new executive order containing multiple layers of new restrictions on the few retail stores still allowed or able to remain open. This new order begins at 5 p.m. April 13 and runs for 30 days.

According to executive order 131, only five people per 1,000 square feet of retail space or 20% of fire marshal posted occupancy limits can be in a store at one time. Markings must be placed 6 feet apart in areas where people gather, like checkout lines, and stores must observe cleaning measures. Additional recommendations in the order include plastic shields at registers and contact-free checkouts.

The order overrides any local prohibitions that set a different occupancy rate in order to maintain “uniformity” across the state.” As with Cooper’s previous executive orders, municipalities and individual stores can enact even stricter measures than described in the new directives. The North Carolina-based Fresh Market grocery store chain, starting April 14, will require all guests to wear a face-covering of some sort.