Safer at Home Order FAQs

Stay At Home FAQsPreguntas frequentes en Español aqui.

Below are frequently asked questions about the Governor’s extension of the state-wide “Safer at Home” Order.

Additional Resources:

Phase 2.5 of the Governor’s “Safer at Home” order loosens some restrictions on activities and allows for more movement, but recommends that you stay home to keep yourself and others safe.

The Governor’s order requires wearing a face covering in all indoor and outdoor spaces where physical distancing cannot be maintained, whether public or private. Individuals are encouraged to follow the Three Ws to reduce the chance of spreading COVID-19.

It’s still important to stay home if you are sick. High-risk individuals are urged to stay at home and travel only for absolutely essential purposes.

Phase 2.5 begins Friday, September 4, 2020, and is in effect through October 2, 2020, unless changed or canceled.

Phase 2.5 lifts or changes the following restrictions:

  • Allows gyms and indoor fitness facilities to reopen at 30% capacity
  • Allows museums and aquariums to reopen at 50% capacity
  • Reopens public playgrounds
  • Allows social indoor gatherings up to 25 people and outdoor gatherings up to 50 people, while following physical distancing and the mask mandate.

Phase 2 still limits or restricts the following:

  • Bars and night clubs remain closed
  • Entertainment facilities, including movie theaters, museums, bowling alleys, amusement parks, arcades, bingo parlors, and other gaming establishments remain closed
  • Restaurants and personal care businesses remain subject to capacity limits, safety protocols, and additional guidelines
  • Teleworking is encouraged
  • Physical distancing, hand hygiene, and other methods to slow the spread of COVID-19 should be practiced, including staying at least six feet apart
  • Open retail businesses must meet certain requirements to ensure the safety of their employees and customers
  • Visitation continues to be banned at long-term care facilities, except for certain compassionate care situations.

The Governor’s extended Safer at Home requires people to wear face coverings while out in public where physical distancing of 6 feet from other people is not possible.

This applies to individuals, workers, customers, and patrons in:

  • Indoor and outdoor public spaces
  • Retail businesses
  • Gyms & indoor fitness facilities
  • Restaurants & breweries
  • Personal care, grooming, and tattoo businesses
  • Public parks and playgrounds
  • Child care facilities, day camps, and overnight camps
  • Government & private offices
  • Museums & aquariums
  • Public transportation, including taxis and ride sharing services
  • Manufacturing and construction settings
  • Migrant farm or other farm settings
  • Meat or poultry processing plants
  • Long-term care facilities

There are some exceptions where face coverings are not required, as listed below:

  • Children under the age of 5
  • Those with medical or behavioral disabilities that prevent them from safely wearing a face covering
  • While alone at home, in a personal vehicle, or in your private office
  • While inside your home or another person’s home
  • While around members of your immediate household
  • For participation in a religious ritual
  • While eating or drinking
  • While swimming or exercising strenuously
  • While actively communicating with someone who is hearing-impaired
  • When giving a speech for broadcast or to an audience
  • When wearing a mask is an immediate safety risk, either by workplace safety guidelines or when it impedes visibility in operating a car or equipment
  • Temporarily for identification purposes at a government or medical facility

If you cannot afford or don’t have access to a face covering, you can use household items like a scarf, bandana, or t-shirt to make one. Learn how to sew or make your own non-sewn face covering here.

Some employers and establishments may provide you with a temporary face covering, so don’t be afraid to ask.

Cloth face coverings should be washed daily, either in a washing machine with hot water and detergent or by hand. It can be included with your regular laundry. Remember to take in account the cloth used in your mask for proper drying and laundering methods.

Cloth face coverings can be washed by hand by soaking in a bleach solution, with instructions outlined by the CDC here.

The New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office and municipal Police Departments are enforcing all orders.

Written citations will be assessed to businesses and organizations that fail to enforce required face coverings for employees and patrons. Individuals in a business or organization that refuse to comply with face covering requirements or to leave the establishment may be found in violation of trespassing laws.

Residents who wish to report noncompliance with orders should contact their local municipal law enforcement agency. Remember that 911 should not be called for these violations. 911 should only be called in emergency situations.

Yes, New Hanover County has developed an overview for safe reopening, and you can view that document here.

In conjunction with this resource, the county’s Public Health team is also offering expertise to restaurants, businesses, and organizations to talk through individual processes and safety measures. Business owners can access that resource by calling the Coronavirus Call Center at 910-798-6800. If needed, the Public Health team can also deploy to meet with restaurants or businesses on site (maintaining all protective measures), to talk through processes that facilitate cleanliness and physical distancing.

Additional resources have been developed by the local, state, and national organizations, including:

New Hanover County Libraries, Cape Fear Museum, Airlie Gardens, the Arboretum, parks, Splashpad at Long Leaf Park, playgrounds, outdoor gyms, walking trails, park preserves, skate park, bike park, and open spaces are open and available to use.

All county libraries and indoor attractions will follow state orders, with everyone expected to wear a mask and will only allow up to 50 percent capacity. All outdoor attractions will follow state orders, with everyone expected to wear a mask and allow up to 50 people per mass gathering limits.

New Hanover County Libraries are open for modified services Monday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Fridays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Library services available include browsing and check-out, picking up holds, 60-minute computer sessions and curbside pick-up services. Interactive play items will not be available in children’s rooms and Story Places and Makerspaces will be closed. Storytimes will continue online. Modifications will be in place to slow the spread of COVID-19, including sanitation stations throughout the buildings, social distancing markers, no seating except for the computer stations, and no meeting room access.

The Cape Fear Museum will reopen on Tuesday, September 8, resuming regular hours of Tuesday-Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday from 1 to 5 p.m. Visitors can expect routine cleaning and disinfecting throughout the day, and temporary closure of some exhibit areas that don’t allow for social distancing or are high-touch areas.

The Order imposes three additional classes of rules for retailers:

Emergency Maximum Occupancy – Retailers are now limited to fifty percent (50%) of the stated fire capacity. Retailers must abide by and enforce this maximum and place notice of the Emergency Maximum Capacity in a conspicuous place.

Physical-Distancing Markings – Retailers must now mark six foot (6′) spacing at cash-register lines and in other “high-traffic areas for customers” inside the establishment. The Order doesn’t define high-traffic areas, but it lists deli counters and areas near high-volume products as examples.  Retailers who have met or expect to meet or exceed their Emergency Maximum Occupancy, must mark six foot (6′) spaces in a designated line outside their establishment.

Cleaning and Disinfecting – The Order mandates frequent and routine cleaning and disinfection of high-touch areas utilizing a disinfectant approved by the EPA for SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19). The Order does not define “frequent” or “routine.”

Yes. Wrightsville Beach, Carolina Beach, and Kure Beach are open. In addition, Masonboro Island is open. Requirements for mask usage, physical distancing practices, and limits on mass gatherings are still in effect.

As with anywhere you go, physical distancing is required. Individuals are encouraged to follow the Three Ws to reduce the chance of spreading COVID-19.

Yes, public and private boat ramps and marinas in New Hanover County are open. This includes boat docks and wet slips. Please follow these recommendations:

  • Maintain distance at boat ramps or fuel docks
  • Avoid using boat ramp docks while other people are on them
  • Do not have anyone other than immediate family on your boat
  • Do not tie up/raft up to other boats- keep your distance on the water
  • Do not congregate on any sandbar or island

Kayaks, paddle boards and other non-motorized boats are still permitted to launch from public or private boat ramps.

Hotels, motels, and short-term rentals are no longer restricted by the county and are open for business.

People can and should leave their homes to receive medical care.

If you have symptoms of COVID-19, first call ahead to your physician or the Coronavirus Call Center at 910-798-6800 to help determine if you need to seek medical care.

If you feel unsafe in your home, please seek out a local shelter.

Local shelters are allowed to remain open within the Order. If you are experiencing abuse or are in danger, resources are available to you through the New Hanover Disaster Coalition.

Yes, county parks, the SplashPad at Long Leaf Park, playgrounds, outdoor gyms, walking trails, parks preserves, skate park, bike park, and open spaces are open and available to use. All county playgrounds and outdoor gym equipment will be subject to frequent cleaning in accordance with the Governor’s Order.

There should be no more than 50 people congregating outdoors or engaging in activity per the Governor’s order.

As with anywhere you go, physical distancing is required. Adults & children ages 5 and older are required to wear a face covering where physical distancing is not possible and are encouraged to follow the Three Ws to reduce the chance of spreading COVID-19.


While religious functions, funerals, and weddings may continue with no restrictions on the number of people who may attend, receptions or visitations before or after weddings and funerals are subject to the indoor gatherings of no more than 25 people and outdoor gatherings of no more than 50 people.

Individuals are required to wear a face covering where physical distancing is not possible and are encouraged to follow the Three Ws to reduce the chance of spreading COVID-19.

Health: 1650 Greenfield Street • Wilmington, NC 28401 • Phone 910-798-3500 • Fax 910-798-7834 • Human Services Fax 910-798-7824
Environmental Health: 230 Government Center Drive, Suite 140 • Wilmington, NC 28403 • Phone 910-798-6667 • Fax 910-798-7815