Before Cooper’s order, some area residents navigated local stay-at-home orders

Published 12:05 am Sunday, March 29, 2020

By Shavonne Potts

SALISBURY — Lately, Steve Hines has been carrying a letter from his employer that lists his company’s name, his position and a few other details because, as a health care professional, he’s considered “essential” during the coronavirus outbreak.

While Gov. Roy Cooper announced a stay-at-home order that starts Monday at 5 p.m., some area residents have needed to navigate localized orders, including earlier ones in Cabarrus and Mecklenburg counties. Those two orders applied to people who live in the counties and its municipalities rather than people who might live elsewhere and work there.

Just as Cabarrus and Mecklenburg, Cooper’s order includes a laundry list of exceptions for businesses deemed essential. People whose jobs have been deemed essential will still be allowed to go to work. Others can still do things like go to the grocery store, pick up food or go on a walk as long as they are socially distant from others.

Rowan County hasn’t been under a separate order before Cooper’s announcement.

Hines, who lives in Salisbury, works in a Cabarrus County office for a nationwide company that seeks to stop infections and viruses within health care facilities. And on Thursday, Cabarrus County issued a stay-at-home proclamation specifically for Concord, Kannapolis, Midland, Mt. Pleasant and Harrisburg.

Although the proclamation said letters are not necessary to show a person is conducting non-restricted activities, some employers have provided them anyway.

Hines said his company issued a letter on Tuesday — ahead of the Cabarrus County order — and then re-issued another one that specifically included his name and position as well as some of the places throughout the region that he may have to travel, including Winston-Salem and Mecklenburg County. His letter is open-ended and does not have an end date.

“I think it’s needed based on our occupation. We need to be able to get past any kind of barriers. So my thoughts are, I think the system works. This is good for us for what I do,” Hines said.

Hines said he’s sort of like a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention representative in this area, so he’s already ahead of some information and mandates. He wasn’t surprised by the county or state mandates.

Michelle Williams, who has family ties to Rowan County, lives in Cabarrus County and works in Mecklenburg County for an e-commerce-based company that sells household goods.

She received a letter from her company on Thursday — the same day Mecklenburg County issued its stay-at-home order.

Her company has included its authorization for employees to continue working with a letter that has the company’s address and roles deemed essential such as shipping, delivery, logistics and pick-ups since the company works with FedEx and the U.S. Postal Service, Williams said. Her letter includes her name, position with the company, her manager’s name, a business contact and card.

She was asked to keep the letter inside her vehicle until the order has been lifted.

Williams, though, thinks that some employees are being put at risk, regardless of whether proclamations call them essential.

“I think although the company considers us to be essential, we’re still putting ourselves at risk and endangering our families. So I feel like, honestly, we should all be abiding by the stay-at-home order in order to decrease the spread of the virus and to protect ourselves and our families,” Williams said.

Jillian Jackson, who lives in Cabarrus County, works here in Rowan County at a nursing home, which has made her “essential.”

She received a letter on Wednesday that states her job is essential. She is a speech/language pathologist who assesses cognition and swallowing functions in the geriatric population.

“I definitely feel like in health care it’s a necessity — people in long-term care facilities and assisted living because they are dependent upon the support from nurses and healthcare staff,” Jackson said. “I think the orders are important in that it definitely should be aimed at essential personnel and essential businesses being open for the protection of the community in health.”

She had not previously thought she even needed a letter because she always had her name tag.

“I figured that was just kind of extra,” she said.