The Reopening of the Outer Banks – Phase 1
Saturday, May 16 will be a banner day for us. After almost two months visitors will again be allowed to be a part of the Outer Banks.
Even though it’s going to be great to see our friends and visitors back on the Outer Banks, there are some things that will be important to be aware of. Check out this short video to familiarize yourself with our new cleaning and safety protocols.
Through May 22, North Carolina is in Phase 1 of the state’s reopening plan. It is possible that Phase 1 will be extended. Decisions are based on a number of indicators that the state uses.
In Phase I there are some important things to know, perhaps most significantly, restaurants are open for takeout only. We’ll add our own note to this—some of the restaurants that have never done takeout have stepped up, and they are doing an amazing job. A special dinner prepared by some of the finest chefs anywhere is still available, but for the time being it’s a to-go order and can be enjoyed at your own dining room table.
Face masks are not required, but they are strongly recommended to protect yourself and the health of the community. Dare County had indicated that it is up to individual business owners to decide whether or not to require a face covering. Some businesses are requiring a face mask to shop in their store.
Retail stores are reopening. However, stores are permitted up to 50% of their occupancy. At this time of the year, there probably will not be much of an impact at grocery stores or larger retailers. If the 50% maximum stays in effect into June or even July, there may be a wait to get into grocery stores in on weekends.
Since we are talking about grocery stores, this is probably a good time to take note of what’s happening with our Outer Banks supermarkets. We are seeing the same supply chain problems that are affecting the rest of the country. Although the stores have been able to supply the needs of residents, there are shortages in some items, especially paper goods, and when available limits have been placed on how many can be purchased.
There are also limits on how much meat can be purchased as well; usually one or two packages.
Because we don’t think the supply chain problems are going to change in the next few weeks, we recommend shopping at home before leaving and bringing as much as possible with you.
There are other parts to Phase I to know about.
State Parks are reopening. On the Outer Banks, that includes Jockey’s Ridge State Park. Access was never restricted to the park, but there were no visitor services. We have not seen the visitors’ center reopen, but that would seem to be consistent with state guidelines.
Playgrounds, however, are not open. Parents with young children, please take note.
The number of people permitted at a public gathering is still 10, but provided social distancing guidelines are followed, they will be permitted outdoors. This does not apply to vacation homes because they are private property.
There are still some closures in effect. Bars and gyms are the two big ones. Hair salons and barbershops are also closed.
To determine when to move to Phase 2 the state is using multiple indicators and it’s interesting to look at how they are viewing the data.
As an example, testing has really ramped up in this state. As of Monday, May 11 there had been 202,000 tests administered. What Dr. Mandy Cohen, the state Health Director has pointed out, is that as testing is increased, there will be an increase in the number of COVID-19 cases. Rather than focusing solely on new cases, the state is also tracking the percent of COVID-19 positives compared to the number of tests.
If that number continues to go down, it’s a good sign. Hospitalizations and new cases are also part of the picture.
As things continue to trend favorably, the state will move to Phase 2. There are still a number of questions about exactly what that will look like, but all indications are restaurants and gyms will be able to reopen, although at around 50% of their normal occupancy.
The beach is still there and it’s as wonderful as ever. The beauty of nature still calls out to be explored on the sound side as well. It’s a reminder that the of the Outer Banks is still here and hasn’t changed at all.