Stay-at-Home Order FAQs

This page will continue to be updated to help clarify the Stay-at-Home Order for the City of Durham, and how it affects specific businesses and activities.

View the General FAQs in a PDF document | Stay-at-Home Order One-Pager (PDF)
View the General FAQs in Spanish (PDF) | Stay-at-Home Order One-Pager Spanish

The Importance of Social Distancing

For all essential business and personal activities, you should make every effort to comply with the Order’s social distancing requirements. This includes maintaining a six-foot distance between yourself and others, and conducting as much of your activity as you can by remote means (electronic or virtual/web based communication, etc.). 

The City appreciates your efforts to comply with the Mayor’s Order. It is the City’s hope that this virus will be controlled as quickly as possible, and that life can soon return to normal.

View Stay-at-Home Order One-Pager

Click to view Stay-at-Home Order one-page summary

Overview FAQs

What does this order mean?

  • It means that movement is restricted for all residents of the City of Durham to stay at their place of residence except that they may leave to provide or receive essential services or engage in essential activities and work for essential businesses and government services.
  • It restricts travel upon public streets, alleys, or roadways or other property except by those in need of medical assistance, food or other commodity or service necessary to sustain the well-being of themselves or their families or some member thereof. 

What is the purpose/goal of this order?

  • To ensure the maximum number of people self-isolate in their places of residence to the maximum extent feasible, while enabling essential services to continue to slow the spread of COVID-19 to the maximum extent possible. 

When will this order be lifted?

The order goes into effect on March 26, 2020, beginning at 6 p.m. and is valid through April 30, 2020, but will be regularly reviewed and evaluated and can be revised, amended, or extended based on recommendations from the Durham County Public Health Department and/or Durham City-County Emergency Management Department. 

How does this order change the previous executive order prohibiting mass gatherings of 100 people or more?

This Order supersedes the restrictions on mass gatherings outlined in the Declaration, which prohibited gatherings of 100 people or more on City-owned property only, and significantly expands the restrictions imposed in the Amendment, beyond gyms, fitness centers, health clubs, and theaters to a wide array of entertainment venues and public amusements. All public and private gatherings of more than 10 people are prohibited, except for the limited purposes permitted by this Order. 

How do I know if I am participating in an essential activity?

Please review these FAQs and the Orders and consider whether the activity is necessary. While it may be enjoyable to fill your stay-at-home time by purchasing new flowers for your garden, this activity is not necessary to maintaining the safety, sanitation, and essential operation of your home. On the other hand, residents must be able to purchase groceries or may need to purchase a refrigerator to store perishable food items. However, if the appliance purchase can be delayed until the orders are lifted, please stay at home.

Explore whether you can purchase those flowers or non-essential household items online to be delivered to your home, or whether you can wait to make your purchase when the legal orders are lifted. Evidence shows that COVID-19 can be transmitted easily and by individuals who do not have any symptoms. Therefore, it is critical that you comply with the City and County Orders to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and protect themselves, their loved ones, friends, neighbors, and the whole community.

Travel by an employee for work at an essential business is allowed.

What is and is not allowed?


  • Go to the grocery, convenience or warehouse store 
  • Go to the pharmacy to pick up medications and other healthcare necessities 
  • Visit a health care professional for medical services that cannot be provided virtually (call first) 
  • Go to a restaurant for take-out, delivery or drive-thru 
  • Care for or support a friend or family member 
  • Take a walk, ride your bike, hike, jog and be in nature for exercise – just keep at least six feet between you and others 
  • Walk your pets and take them to veterinarian, if necessary 
  • Help someone to get necessary supplies 
  • Receive deliveries from any business which delivers 


  • Go to work unless you are providing essential services as defined by this Order 
  • Visit friends and family if there is no urgent need 
  • Maintain less than 6 feet of distance from others when you go out 
  • Visit loved ones in the hospital, nursing home, skilled nursing facility or other residential care facility, except for limited exceptions as provided on the facility websites 
  • Travel except for essential travel and activities 

What is the difference between “stay-at-home” and “social distancing”? 

Stay at home is a stricter form of social distancing. Stay at home means: 

  • Stay home (stay unexposed and do not expose others) 
  • Only go out for essential services 
  • Stay 6 feet or more away from others 
  • Don’t gather in groups 

What activities and businesses/travel are considered essential? 

Activities that are considered essential: 

  • For health and safety 
  • To get necessary supplies and services 
  • For outdoor activities (walking, hiking, golfing, running, cycling, using greenways) 
  • For work for essential businesses/operations 
  • To take care of others 

For information on essential businesses, see the Business FAQs and categories on this page.

I live outside of Durham County. How does this affect me?

If you work in those areas of the City of Durham that also lie within Durham County, then your business/employer must comply with this order. You are allowed to travel through the City of Durham and conduct essential activities within the City of Durham and to return home. 

What is considered essential travel?

  • Any travel related to the provision of or access to essential activities, essential governmental functions, essential businesses and operations, or minimum basic operations. 
  • Travel to care for elderly, minors, dependents, persons with disabilities, or other vulnerable persons 
  • Travel to or from education institutions for purposes of receiving materials for distance learning, for receiving meals, and other related services 
  • Travel to return to a place of residence from outside the jurisdiction 
  • Travel required by law enforcement or court order, including to transport children pursuant to a custody agreement 
  • Travel required for non-residents to return to their place of residence outside Durham County. Individuals are strongly encouraged to verify that their transportation out of Durham County remains available and functional prior to commencing such travel 

Am I allowed to travel? 

You are allowed to travel for purposes of essential business and essential activities 

Am I allowed to go outside to exercise?

Yes – but maintain social distancing of at least 6 feet from all others. 

What are the requirements for social distancing?

Required measures include: 

  • Designate 6 foot distances 
  • Hand sanitizer and sanitizing products 
  • Separate operating hours for vulnerable populations 
  • Online and remote access 

What should I do if I think I should not go to work?

If you believe you should not go to work because you have COVID-19, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services has issued guidance that you can view here.

The City cannot determine whether an employee is deemed essential by its employer. Any issues regarding employer-employee relations should be addressed to the North Carolina Department of Labor (DOL), which has an occupational safety division. More information is available online here.

I live in (Rougemont/Bahama/Research Triangle Park, etc.) – does this order apply to me? 

No – this order applies to all residents who live within those portions of the City of Durham that are also located within Durham County. Note that Durham County government may enact a Stay-at-Home Order which may further impact Durham County residents. Also, residents and businesses and other operations that are located in those portions of the City of Durham which lie in a county other than Durham County (e.g. Wake County, Orange County) are not covered by this Order. 

Does this order apply to the homeless? 

No – homeless are exempt from this restriction, but are urged to find shelter. 

The order says I am allowed to go outside – can I take my children to parks/amusement centers?

All places of public amusement where people may gather, whether indoors or outdoors, including but not limited to, locations with amusement rides, carnivals, amusement parks, water parks, aquariums, zoos, museums, arcades, fairs, children’s play centers, playgrounds, recreation centers, funplexes, theme parks, bowling alleys, movie and other theaters, concert and music halls, and country clubs or social clubs are closed to the public. 

Can I visit a loved one in a hospital/nursing home/etc.?

Owners, administrators, operators, staff, contractors, and volunteers of nursing homes, long-term care and assisted living facilities are prohibited from allowing a person to enter the facility and visit a resident unless each of the following criteria are met: 

  1. the visitor is an adult; 
  2. the resident has not already had a visitor that day; and 
  3. the visit takes place in the resident’s room. 

This prohibition does not apply to end-of-life situations. 

Where can I stay up-to-date on any changes and news about City of Durham operations, services, and programs due to COVID-19?

How do I know if my business is essential and can remain open?

The orders currently in effect include the City of Durham Stay-At-Home Order (“City Order”), the County Stay-At-Home Order (“County Order”), and North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper’s Executive Order (“Governor’s Order”), which all require North Carolinians to stay at home except for essential responsibilities and activities.

Essential businesses are enumerated in the Durham City and County Orders. Review the Orders to see whether your business fits into such a category. Following the issuance of the County Order and the Governor’s Order, specific businesses have been classified as non-essential: breweries; bottles shops; mattress stores; furniture stores; beauty supply stores; CBD, vape, or tobacco shops; and pool and spa supply stores. Note that these businesses can still offer these items or services by delivery, phone, or virtual means.

The City recognizes that many Durham businesses may experience a financial hardship due to the current restrictions, but the City urges businesses to comply to the fullest extent possible in order to protect our community.

Does the City of Durham make an independent determination of whether a business qualifies as “Critical Infrastructure?”

No. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Cybersecurity Infrastructure & Security Agency (CISA), has issued a Memorandum on Identification of Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers During COVID-19 Response. The City of Durham has accepted the definition of those businesses which CISA identifies as Critical Infrastructure. The City of Durham does not make an independent determination.

At the same time, the City of Durham has authority to establish limits on the activities of those businesses and to set guidelines for how they operate in order to limit the potential spread of COVID-19. As noted in the Memorandum, with this pandemic there is “the reality that some workers engaged in activity determined to be essential may be unable to perform those functions because of health-related concerns.” This is why Durham County has imposed some limits on otherwise essential businesses, such as setting the Social Distancing and Sanitation Requirements.

What does this mean for non-essential businesses?

Non-essential business and operations must cease – all businesses and operations in the City of Durham, except essential businesses and operations, are to cease all activities within the city limits except minimum basic operations. Businesses may continue operations consisting exclusively of employees or contractors performing activities at their own residences (i.e., working from home). 

What does delivery mean?

“Delivery,” which is an allowable way for non-essential businesses to operate, means bringing letters, parcels, or other goods to someone’s house. This common usage allows for delivery by mail or other carrier, or by a delivery person. Delivery does not include curbside service for a non-essential business.

What if my business or activity isn’t covered in this FAQs document?

There’s a lot covered in this FAQs document! You can read about blood drives, nannies and childcare, education, critical trades, tax and accounting firms, emergency food assistance, construction, real estate services, car dealerships, services for pets, cleaning services, beer and wine retail shops, and more. If your business or activity is not covered in this FAQs document, please read the County Order.

If my company cannot meet the Social Distancing and Sanitation Requirements do we have to close down?

The requirements in the County Stay at Home Order are intended to set guidelines for preventing the spread of COVID-19 in Essential Businesses, whether by staff or patrons. It is understood that, depending on the business, not all of the Social Distancing and Sanitation Requirements may be readily achieved. Please see the sentence which is immediately before the specified practices, "For purposes of this Order, social distancing and sanitation practices shall include, to the extent possible.”

This especially true of the mandate that employers conduct temperature checks on their employees before they come to work. It is well understood that the availability of thermometers, especially Laser thermometers which can read temperatures at a distance, is limited at this time. At the same time, it may be that a business has the ability to perform these checks or come up with alternative ways to have these done pending receipt of their own thermometers.

The Durham County Stay At Home Order does expect that businesses will come into compliance with it's requirements as soon as reasonably practicable, but they are not expected to discontinue operations so long as they are making reasonable efforts to comply with the Order.

Is there anything else I should know?

The Orders include a social distancing requirement. This means that any individual and business that is permitted to operate must practice the social distancing and sanitation requirements of the County Order. At this critical moment, all businesses, whether essential or non-essential, should consider whether options for virtual meetings and online interfacing (such as through Zoom and web portals) may provide clients or customers with the same level of service, while also keeping our community safe.

Businesses and types of work that are considered essential: 

  • All business, industry, work, and service sectors identified as “critical infrastructure” by the Cybersecurity Infrastructure & Security Agency (CISA) of the Department of Homeland Security in the Memorandum on Identification of Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers During COVID-19 Response issued on March 19, 2020. (
  • Healthcare, public health, law enforcement, public safety and first responders 
  • Food, beverages, and agriculture (manufacturing, production, processing, cultivation including farming, livestock, fishing, baking, distribution of animals and good for consumption, providing food, shelter, and other necessities for animals) 
  • Stores that sell groceries and medicine 
  • Organizations that provide charitable and social services (businesses and religious and secular nonprofit organizations including food banks, when providing food and shelter, social services, and other necessities for life for economically disadvantaged or needy individuals, individuals who need assistance, and people with disabilities). 
  • Energy 
  • Water and wastewater 
  • Transportation and logistics 
  • Public works 
  • Communication and information technology 
  • Media 
  • Gas stations and businesses needed for transportation (gas stations and auto-supply, auto-repair, and related facilities and bicycle shops and related facilities) 
  • Financial institutions (banks, currency exchange, consumer lenders, including but not limited, to payday lenders, pawnbrokers, consumer installment lenders and sales finance lenders, credit unions, appraisers, title companies, financial markets, trading and future exchanges, affiliates of financial institutions, entities that issue bonds, related financial institutions, and institutions selling financial products) 
  • Hardware and supply stores 
  • Critical trades (building and construction – plumbers, electricians, exterminators, cleaning and janitorial staff for commercial and governmental properties, security staff, operating engineers, HVAC, painting, moving and relocation services, and other service providers who provide services that are necessary to maintaining the safety, sanitation, and essential operation of residences, essential activities, and essential businesses) 
  • Mail, post, shipping, logistics, delivery, and pick-up services (post offices and other businesses that provide shipping and delivery services, businesses that ship or deliver groceries, food, goods or services to end users or through commercial channels) 
  • Laundry services 
  • Restaurants for consumption off-premises (in-house delivery, third-party deliver, drivethrough, curbside pick-up, and carry-out) 
  • Supplies to work from home 
  • Supplies for essential businesses and operations (see #14 in the order for details
  • Transportation (airlines, taxis, public transportation, vehicle rental, logistics) 
  • Home-based care and services (home-based care for adults, seniors, children, people with disabilities) 
  • Residential facilities and shelters 
  • Professional services (legal, accounting, insurance, real estate, restricted to appraisal and title services) 
  • Childcare centers (for specific employees – first responders, healthcare workers, public health, etc.) 
  • Manufacture, distribution, and supply chain (see #20 for details
  • Hotels and motels 
  • Funeral services 
  • Other community-based government operations and essential functions including human services 
  • Other community-based human service operations 
  • Critical manufacturing 
  • Hazardous materials 

What are minimum basic operations? 

The minimum necessary activities to maintain the value of the businesses’ inventory, preserve the condition of the business’s physical plant and equipment, ensure security, process payroll, and employee benefits, or for related functions. 

The minimum necessary activities to facilitate the employees of the business being able to continue to work remotely from their residences. 

The County’s order went into effect Sunday, March 29, 2020, at 5 p.m. For complete information, view the County’s order.

The City and the County orders are very similar, with the County’s order clarifying stay-at-home requirements for essential businesses, such as real estate and childcare. In addition, it explicitly notes that educational institutions may provide food and associated services.

There is also an entire section on social distancing and sanitation requirements for essential businesses as follows:

To the extent possible:

  • Employers shall perform temperature checks of employees when they report to work and mandate that any employee with a temperature of 100.4 or higher go home
  • Employees shall maintain at least 6’ social distancing
  • Employees shall frequently wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer
  • Employees shall cover coughs or sneezes with sleeves, elbows or tissues (not hands)
  • Employees shall regularly clean high-touch surfaces in their work spaces
  • Employees shall not share tools, instruments or other devices
  • Employees shall not shake hands

The orders currently in effect include the City of Durham Stay-At-Home Order (“City Order”), the County Stay-At-Home Order (“County Order”), and North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper’s Executive Order (“Governor’s Order”), which all require North Carolinians to stay at home except for essential responsibilities and activities.

Because the orders were written to cover various circumstances, when there appears to be a conflict between the orders, you should follow the order that is more stringent. All of these orders were written with your safety in mind, while attempting to clarify specific topics or areas of interest.

How does the Governor’s Order impact the City and County Orders?

In short, it doesn’t. The Governor’s Order allows for the more restrictive order to apply. Refer to these FAQs and the City and County Orders for direction.

What if previous advice I received conflicts with the information here?

The legal environment is rapidly evolving as the City gains new information and new legal orders are entered. The County of Durham and Roy Cooper, North Carolina Governor, have issued stay-at-home orders since the date the City’s Order was entered. Therefore, the advice given as of March 30, 2020 is the most current information about whether your business is essential and supersedes all advice given prior to this date.

It is mandatory. The City and County Orders are legal orders issued under the authority of North Carolina law. You are required to comply, and it is a criminal offense to not follow the Orders—although the intent is not for anyone to get into trouble.

The Durham Police Department (DPD) is enforcing the Order through education, dialogue, and seeking voluntary cooperation from all residents and businesses inside the city limits. If voluntary cooperation is not achieved, DPD is equipped to enforce these restrictions through criminal charges. Any person violating any prohibition or restriction imposed by this Order shall be guilty of a Class 2 misdemeanor in accordance with G.S. 14-288.20A.

The DPD is not requiring people to provide identification or documentation when conducting essential business or essential activities. Also, since essential businesses are allowed to operate, they are not enforcing a curfew.

To report Stay-at-Home Order violations to the DPD for investigation, call the Durham Emergency Communications Center non-emergency phone number at 919-560-4600.

Do NOT call the non-emergency phone number for general inquiries or questions about the Order. If your question is not answered on this FAQ webpage, contact Durham One Call at (919) 560-1200 for assistance Monday - Friday from 8 a.m. - 5 p.m.

Category Specific FAQs

Find out if your business or activity is considered essential. If your business or activity is not covered on this FAQ page, please read the County Order.

Yes. Under the County Order, auto parts supplier are required for transportation and are considered “Essential Businesses & Operations.”

Yes. The repair and rebuilding of transportation vehicles, including automobiles, motorcycles, mopeds, and RVs, are needed for transportation, which is the purpose of this essential, transportation related activity.

Yes. Blood drives are allowed under local orders and federal guidelines.

  • The operation of a shop that primarily sells beer or wine and beer-related items is not an essential business that would be excepted from closure under the Order. Accordingly, distilleries, breweries, and bottle shops cannot continue curbside delivery. Similarly, they should not be manufacturing.
  • ABC stores are owned, operated, and regulated by the State of North Carolina and are therefore under the Governor’s Order, which allows them to remain open as an essential retail business.
  • Grocery stores are deemed essential businesses and therefore alcohol sales may occur at these businesses. The City and County are not currently monitoring the specific transactions of essential businesses.
  • Curb-side delivery has been specifically allowed for essential businesses, such as the delivery of food and transportation-related functions (like bicycle repair). However, it is not being extended to allow the continued operation of other retail operations deemed nonessential.

Yes. Under the County Order, auto dealers fall under essential businesses.

Yes. Current guidance does not distinguish between traditional financial institutions and alternative financial service providers.

Yes. In-home caregiving services for adults, seniors, and children are allowed. Nursing assistants, caregivers, and nannies are permitted to travel to a home to provide care.

Yes. Childcare facilities may continue to operate for employees exempted by this Order and for first responders, healthcare workers, public health, HHS staff and others responding to COVID-19.

Yes. Cleaning and janitorial services for commercial, residential, and governmental properties are permitted to continue to operate.

Most likely. Any construction work can continue if it is necessary for a safe, sanitary, and functional building. Projects that are partly completed may continue if delaying completion would pose a safety, security, or sanitation risk to residents or impact the habitability of the residence. These projects in progress must stop once they are in a safe and sanitary condition. If a project is purely cosmetic and can be safely delayed, it should not continue.

Yes. Livestock and companion animal/pet care are business activities permissible and may continue.

Yes. Outdoor recreation activities, such as fishing, are permitted.

Yes. Businesses that distribute groceries, food for preparation at home, and food to needy individuals may continue to operate.

Yes. Outdoor recreation activities, such as golfing, are permitted.

No. Gyms are excluded from healthcare as an essential activity. Thus, clients cannot be on-site to receive services or use the facilities. However, video sessions broadcast virtually from the facility by an individual to clients are acceptable. Sessions by phone and other digital means are similarly acceptable.

Yes. Individuals are allowed to visit health care professionals. Before leaving home to access healthcare services, individuals should first seek access by telephone or through digital or other online access. Healthcare operations are considered essential businesses that are allowed to continue to operate. This includes, for example, hospitals, urgent care facilities, medical clinics, dental and eye care clinics, physical therapists, chiropractic offices and other health care providers. It does not include fitness and exercise gyms, spas, salons or barber shops, tattoo parlors and similar facilities.

Yes. Home inspections, especially when required for closings of homes under contact, are considered professional services and allowed under the Orders.

Maybe. Because North Carolina and the federal government have extended income tax filing deadlines, tax income offices and accounting firms are essential and can remain open only if they support critical infrastructure or if a failure to provide the services during the time of this Order would result in significant prejudice to clients. Non-essential services may continue if there is no in-person contact.


Yes. You can move into a new residence and a moving company can help you with the move.

Yes. Businesses that operate primarily outdoors are permitted to continue to operate.

Yes. A business that provides services for pet welfare can continue to operate. These services allow those who must continue to work, for essential reasons, to provide care for their pets.

No. Pet grooming businesses are not considered an essential business, except when grooming is necessary for the health and wellness of the pet.

Yes. A store that sells pet food, medications and other supplies for pet welfare can continue to operate.

Yes. Plumbers; electricians; exterminators; cleaning and janitorial staff for commercial and governmental properties; security staff; operating engineers; HVAC, painting, moving and relocation services; and other service providers who provide services that are necessary to maintaining the safety, sanitation, and essential operation of residences and essential businesses many continue to provide these property maintenance services.

Yes. Providing and securing rental properties for individuals and families is an essential health and safety concern and necessary for our community’s compliance with the Orders.

Maybe. Only the following real estate services are authorized in connection with closing sales:

  • Post-offer inspections,
  • appraisal,
  • surveys,
  • final walk throughs, and
  • title services.

Take-out, curbside service, and delivery service are allowed by restaurants.


Yes. Private schools, as education institutions, may remain open under the Order, provided that social distancing of six-feet per person is maintained to the extent possible. This is consistent with and does not amend or supersede other Orders regarding school closures.

Yes. Veterinary services provide services for pet welfare and are permitted to continue to operate.

Maybe. If these services are prescribed by a healthcare provider, they may continue to be provided. Otherwise, these services cannot be offered in-person.

View Stay at Home PSA