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DHHS: Farmers markets can stay open, but restaurant outdoor seating is off-limits

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Update at 3:45 p.m.: Citing a state of emergency, Durham City officials have ordered the Durham Farmers Markets to close despite guidance from the state Department of Health and Human Services.

Farmers markets are in the same classification as groceries and can remain open, according to guidance issued by the state Department of Health and Human Services.

DHHS clarified parts of Gov. Roy Cooper’s Executive Order, which prohibits gatherings of 50 or more people and closes bars, restaurants because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Policy Watch reported earlier this week that Durham city and county government officials had ordered all Durham Farmers Markets to temporarily close, classifying them as “events” exceeded the gathering limit. Meanwhile, the four state farmers markets remained open.

State Rep. Pricey Harrison (D-Guilford) and State Sen. Mike Woodard (D-Durham) worked with DHHS on guidance to keep markets open. Farmers markets around the state have implemented “no-sampling” policies and are working on ways to ensure they comply with the social distancing directive of keeping patrons 6 feet apart.

Outdoor seating at restaurants, though is prohibited, as indoor. Restaurants can provide take-out, delivery and drive-through services.

The text of the guidance is below.

Farmer’s Markets:

In NC, Farmers Markets fall under the same classification as grocery stores and are considered an important source of food for local communities. Farmers Markets who choose to operate during the COVID-19 outbreak are required to follow the same federal or state mandated directives as grocery stores on issues such as social distancing or crowd size (if indoor).   In addition, restaurants located at farmers markets are also subject to Executive Order No. 118.  Additional guidance regarding executive order 118 and the Secretary’s abatement order will be issued shortly.

Outdoor Seating at Restaurants:

In light of new information today regarding the presence of community spread of COVID-19 in North Carolina, local jurisdictions should enforce the more stringent Order of Abatement of Imminent Hazard issued by the Secretary of the NC Department of Health and Human Services, which states that “seating areas of restaurants and bars constitute an imminent hazard for the spread of COVID-19.” Restaurants shall close all seating areas immediately and bars are directed to close immediately. Restaurants are restricted to carry-out, drive-through, and delivery to ensure food is available while maintaining social distancing. Restaurant staff are not permitted to serve patrons indoors or in the outdoor seating area, and all areas of North Carolina are subject to mass gathering restrictions and social distancing guidelines. If a restaurant has outdoor seating, onsite consumption in the outdoor seating area is not permitted pursuant to the Order of Abatement.

 

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DHHS: Farmers markets can stay open, but restaurant outdoor seating is off-limits