Vacationers began to steadily arrive on Hatteras and Ocracoke islands on Saturday, with many vehicles waiting in line at the Wright Memorial Bridge late Friday night for the Outer Banks’ 12:01 a.m. reopening.
Access to Dare County was prohibited by local officials on March 20, (which included both visitors and non-resident property owners), and the county reopened to non-resident owners only in a three-phased reentry that began on May 4.
The county officially re-opened to the public in general on Saturday, May 16.
Local businesses on Hatteras Island donned blue-and-yellow ribbons as part of the newly formed Hatteras Island Business Association’s “Welcome Back” campaign, and welcomed new arrivals via social media posts and marquee messages.
N.C. Highway 12 on Hatteras Island slowly became busier as Saturday progressed, with many new arrivals heading to vacation homes, grocery stores, and local restaurants offering to-go and delivery services.
The Avon Food Lion parking lot, which has been fairly empty since the March 20 restrictions went into effect, steadily filled up throughout the morning and early afternoon, with many, (but not all), shoppers following guidelines to wear masks and stay at least six feet away from other patrons.
Grocery stores throughout the islands were reportedly well-stocked as of 1 p.m. on Saturday afternoon, although some in-demand supplies, including meats and paper products, were somewhat limited.
Dare County has posted updates and guidelines for visitors in the days leading up to Saturday’s reopening, which reminded visitors that vacations will be “different this year” due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The county is currently operating in accordance with Phase 1 orders of the state of North Carolina’s three-phased plan to lift restrictions.
Under Phase 1:
- People are allowed to leave their homes for commercial activity at any business that is open.
- Small outdoor gatherings are allowed, but gatherings of more than 10 people are still prohibited.
- Certain businesses remain closed, including bars, personal care businesses, entertainment venues, and gyms.
- Retail businesses are allowed to open at 50% capacity with cleaning and specific social distancing requirements from the state.
- While mass gatherings remain limited to 10 or fewer individuals, according to Executive Order 138, a house, household, place of residence, or current place of abode, where more than ten (10) people reside, is not considered a mass gathering.
- When leaving the house, remember the three W’s. Wear. Wait. Wash. Wear a face covering. Wait 6 feet apart and avoid contact with others, and Wash your hands or use hand sanitizer often
In addition, Dare County posted a list of changes that visitors should anticipate in their Friday, May 15 COVID-19 update, which echoed the current stay-at-home orders, and which included the following:
- At this time, restaurants are only permitted to provide take out, drive-thru, or delivery. No seated service, indoors or outdoors, is allowed. If a restaurant has outdoor seating, onsite consumption in the outdoor seating area is not permitted pursuant to the Order of Abatement.
- Community and public pools and spas are closed.
- Lodging accommodations are implementing different protocols and procedures to help ensure the safety of guests and staff.
- Like many places throughout the nation, certain types of products remain difficult or hard to find. There may also be purchasing limits for in-demand products such as paper products and cleaning supplies.
- As more businesses begin to open under the state’s order, please be mindful of signage explaining changes to operations due to COVID-19. Check social media and websites for updates on how our local businesses are adapting in response to COVID-19.
- To protect the health and safety of customers and employees this summer, some local businesses may require patrons to wear a cloth face covering inside their facilities.
- While face coverings are a crucial part of the first line of defense against COVID-19, they should be worn and used in partnership at the same time as proper hygiene and social distancing protection measures. Practice the 3 W’s.
For more information on visitor FAQs and county guidelines, which includes guidance on safely enjoying the Outer Banks, please visit https://www.darenc.com/departments/health-human-services/coronavirus