Gov. Roy Cooper has issued a series of statewide orders restricting certain activities to slow the spread of COVID-19. The state health department also has issued a secretarial directive for residents to take immediate action to protect themselves and others from COVID-19, effective Jan. 6 until rescinded.
The state is under a modified stay-at-home order through Jan. 29:
- People must remain at home 10 p.m.-5 a.m. with some exceptions.
- Many businesses and activities must be closed or suspended during these hours.
- Alcohol sales are prohibited 9 p.m.-7 a.m.
Additionally, the state:
- Prohibits most indoor gatherings of more than 10 people and outdoor gatherings of more than 50 people.
- Directs everyone to wear a face covering when around anyone who does not live in their household. There are a few exceptions.
See the sections below for more information.
Modified stay-at-home order
Everyone must remain at home 10 p.m.-5 a.m. except for:
- Travel to or from a place of work when a worker's presence is required by the worker's employer.
- Travel for work purposes.
- Performing work at the workplace or other location directed by the employer when the worker's presence is required by the employer.
- Travel to obtain groceries, take-out food, medical care, fuel, health care supplies, or social services.
- Travel from a business that closed at or after 10 p.m.
- Travel to a business that will open at or after 5 a.m.
- Travel to take care of a family member, friend, or pet in another household.
- Travel necessary for purposes of personal safety.
- Travel into or out of the state.
- Travel required by law enforcement or court order.
- Using or providing shared transportation (including but not limited to taxicabs, ride shares, buses, trains, airplanes and travel to airports, train stations, or bus stations).
Additionally, many businesses must remain closed 10 p.m.-5 a.m. (this does not apply to retail businesses that sell groceries, medication, fuel or health care supplies).
Secretarial directive for immediate actions
While not enforceable through civil or criminal penalty, the secretarial directive from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services outlines immediate actions North Carolinians must take to save lives, slow the spread of the virus and protect hospital capacity to ensure medical care is available to anyone who may need it. It aligns with recent recommendations from the White House Coronavirus Task Force, the Governor’s executive orders on COVID-19 and the COVID-19 County Alert System for North Carolina.
North Carolinians are directed to:
- Only leave home for essential activities such as going to work or school, for health care purposes, to care for family members or to buy food.
- Avoid leaving home if you are over 65 or at high risk for developing serious illness. Use delivery services or alternative pick-up methods for food and retail.
- Avoid gathering with people who do not live with you.
- Wear a mask and keep distance from people when you leave home.
- Avoid any indoor public spaces where people are not wearing masks.
- Stay away from crowds. Avoid places where people may gather in large numbers.
As recommended by the White House Coronavirus Task Force to North Carolina, the directive also instructs that if you have gathered with people who do not live with you, you should assume you are now infected with the virus and get tested for COVID-19. People also should get tested if they have symptoms or have been exposed to someone with COVID-19.
N.C. Secretarial Directive — immediate action by residents to protect themselves and others, effective Jan. 6, 2021
The state has mandated use of face coverings in many situations. The requirement applies:
- While indoors in a private or public setting with anyone who does not live in the same household.
- While in a private or public transportation vehicle if traveling with people who do not live in the same household. (Customers may be denied entry to public transportation if they refuse to wear a face covering.)
- While outdoors and unable to maintain a 6-foot physical distance from people who do not live in the same household.
Face coverings are not required:
- For those who cannot wear a face covering due to a medical or behavioral condition or disability.
- For children under 5 years old.
- For children whose parents or guardians are unable to place the face covering properly.
- While actively eating or drinking.
- When speaking to a hearing-impaired person who needs to lip-read.
- While giving a speech for a broadcast or for an audience.
- When working at home, in a personal vehicle or in a personal office.
- If wearing a face covering would create a workplace safety issue.
- If wearing a face covering would impede visibility required to safely operate a vehicle or equipment.
- Temporarily while securing government services or medical services or for identification purposes.
Businesses and organizations that do not enforce the face covering requirement, as well as individuals not in compliance, may be cited. See the "N.C. order documents" section of this webpage for more information. See the "enforcement" section of this webpage for reporting information.
The state prohibits most indoor gatherings of more than 10 people and outdoor gatherings of more than 50 people. This includes receptions, rehearsal dinners and other nonreligious gatherings.
Maximum gathering limits do not apply to:
- Religious worship services.
- Wedding and funeral ceremonies.
Special event permits
Most events that are open to the general public or that require street closings require a Special Event Permit. As part of the review process, event plans will be reviewed for COVID-19 safety. See the Special Events Permit page for more information on applying for a permit.
North Carolina has been seeing an increase in COVID-19 clusters from social events and other gatherings, such as parties, family gatherings, weddings and funerals. Guidance on gatherings is available on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services and Orange County websites.
If you are considering offering a gathering, you can receive a COVID-19 safety review of your plans from the Orange County Environmental Health Division by visiting the COVID Safety Plan Review page.
The state has placed the following restrictions on businesses:
- Many businesses must remain closed 10 p.m.-5 a.m. (this does not apply to retail businesses that sell groceries, medication, fuel or health care supplies).
- Retail business locations with more than 15,000 square feet of interior space must have a worker at each entrance open to the public who is responsible for enforcing the state's face covering and emergency maximum occupancy requirements.
- Most places of business are allowed to have inside 50% of the occupancy limits posted by the fire marshal or up to 12 people per 1,000 square feet. The emergency maximum occupancy must be posted in a conspicuous place. If the business expects to reach that level of occupancy, it must post sufficient staff at entrances and exits to enforce the limit.
- Restaurants may operate with additional distancing requirements.
- Bars may operate outdoors only at 30% of outdoor capacity, or 100 guests, whichever is less.
- Bars and restaurants may not sell alcohol between 9 p.m. and 7 a.m.
- Gyms and indoor exercise facilities may open at 30% capacity. This includes yoga studios, martial arts, rock climbing, skating rinks, bowling alleys, and indoor basketball and volleyball.
- Movie theaters and conference centers may open indoor spaces to 30% of capacity, or 100 guests, whichever is less.
- Large outdoor venues with seating greater than 10,000 may operate with 7% occupancy for spectators.
- Smaller outdoor entertainment venues, such as arenas or amphitheaters, may operate outdoors at 30% of outdoor capacity, or 100 guests, whichever is less.
- Amusement parks may open at 30% occupancy with outdoor attractions only.
- Retail businesses are required to mark 6-foot social distancing spacing for customers at checkouts and other locations where there is an expectation of high numbers of people congregating or waiting in line, including outside the business.
- Retail establishments are required to perform frequent and routine cleaning and disinfection of high-touch surfaces.
- Teleworking is encouraged for businesses that can practice it.
Additional business guidance and resources are available on the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) page of this website.
Personal care business reports
All complaints related to hair salons, barbers, nail salons, waxers, threaders, skin care and similar businesses must be directed to the N.C. Board of Cosmetic Art Examiners. An online form is available.
Environmental health complaints
For business-related environmental health complaints, contact the Orange County Environmental Health Division through its online form or call 919-245-2360 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday-Friday.
For other reports, contact Hillsborough police online anytime or at 919-296-9500 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday-Friday. Call 911 for emergencies or if neither option is available. Police will follow up on any violation reports.
Frequently asked questions
Below are answers to some frequently asked questions. The state also has FAQs available online.
Why are the state orders and county declaration in place?
The orders and declaration are intended to slow transmission of the virus, prevent overwhelming local hospitals, and keep first responders safe. North Carolina is considered to have widespread transmission of the virus, which means people who have tested positive cannot trace where they were exposed to the virus. According to the CDC, people are thought to be most contagious when they are most symptomatic (the sickest). However, some spread may be possible before people show symptoms.
Are parks, greenways and playgrounds open?
Parks, greenways and playgrounds are open with some restrictions. Face coverings must be worn now when distances of 6 feet cannot be maintained. See the Town Services Affected by COVID-19 webpage for more information.
Are face coverings required while exercising indoors?
In indoor gyms and fitness facilities, face coverings are now required when people are exercising.
How do I know I'm staying 6 feet away from others?
Use our guide Social Distancing: What Does 6 Feet Look Like to get an idea of the actual physical distance you need to keep between yourself and others not in your household. Six feet is about three or more adult steps.
Staying 6 feet away from others requires stepping aside or off walkways to allow others to pass when outside exercising or when in stores for essential needs. If you're using the Riverwalk greenway, keep in mind that the trail is:
- 6 feet wide from downtown to the trail that leads to the Historic Occoneechee Speedway Trail.
- 8 feet wide from downtown to Gold Park.
Are restaurants, bars and entertainment venues allowed to be open? Are alcohol sales allowed?
Many restaurants, bars and entertainment venues are allowed to open with restrictions. See the "business guidance" section of this webpage for more information. Alcohol sales are allowed, except between 9 p.m. and 7 a.m.
Are face coverings required while dining indoors?
In restaurants, guests are required to wear face coverings at their table unless they are actively eating or drinking.
How are religious institutions affected by the state orders and county declaration?
There are no restrictions on the number of participants in a religious service. However, participants should follow social distancing and other guidelines to limit the risk of transmission.
Can I visit a family member in a nursing home?
Secretary Mandy Cohen of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services has issued a secretarial order allowing for outdoor visitation at nursing homes or skilled nursing facilities. Nursing homes must meet several requirements, including:
- Not having a current outbreak.
- Having a testing plan and updated written infection control or preparedness plan for COVID-19.
- Having adequate personal protective equipment.
Current data indicates that risk of transmission in outdoor settings is lower compared to indoor settings. The continued use of technology to keep families connected as much as possible is still highly encouraged.
How are weddings and funerals affected by the state orders and county declaration?
Wedding and funeral ceremonies are exempt from maximum gathering limits. However, receptions, rehearsal dinners and other nonreligious gatherings are limited to 10 participants indoors and 50 outdoors. Table service provided by catering services is allowed for groups that do not exceed limits.
How will police respond to reports of businesses in violation of a state order or the county declaration?
Police will follow up on any violation reports.
If a report of a business in violation is not an emergency or critical situation, police will refer it to a town government task force. The task force will determine whether businesses are in compliance with an order. If a business cannot be open, police will follow up with enforcement. If the business can be open but is not in compliance, the task force will work with the business to reach compliance. Police with follow up with enforcement if necessary.
How will police respond to people who are in violation of a state order or the county declaration?
Hillsborough officers will educate people and seek voluntary compliance before considering pursuing any arrest or charge. Communication will be the primary tool to resolve situations where people may be in violation. Violation of an order is a Class 2 misdemeanor, and people could be arrested for violating it. However, charging people will be considered a last resort and will generally be reserved for situations that are especially egregious or where there are repeat violations. If officers do have to charge someone, they will opt for issuing a citation over making a custodial arrest wherever possible.
What will happen if police encounter children congregating in ways that are in violation of a state order or the county declaration?
Police know children are less likely to understand the seriousness of the order. As with adults found to be congregating, officers will likely approach them and educate them on the order and advise them of better options. If behaviors are especially problematic, officers may attempt to contact parents, but charges of any form will only be pursued against juveniles in the most extreme of situations.
Parents are encouraged to share the seriousness of physical distancing and other COVID-19 restrictions with children. The virus can be dangerous for all ages. In addition, the CDC states some transmission of the virus may be possible before people show symptoms.
Please help share the following resources.
Face Coverings Required in Public (English and Spanish)
N.C. order documents
N.C. executive order documents referenced on this webpage are available below. All N.C. executive order documents related to COVID-19 are available on the state website.
The state also has FAQs available online.
N.C. Executive Order No. 171 — eviction restrictions, effective Oct. 28, 2020
N.C. Executive Order No. 181 — modified stay-at-home order and nighttime closures, effective Dec. 11, 2020
N.C. Executive Order No. 184 — extension of eviction restrictions, effective Dec. 31, 2020
N.C. Executive Order No. 188 — extension of modified stay-at-home order and nighttime closures, effective Jan. 8, 2021
N.C. Secretarial Directive — immediate action by residents to protect themselves and others, effective Jan. 6, 2021
N.C. Secretarial Order No. 4 — mandatory testing for nursing home staff, effective Sept. 21, 2020
N.C. Secretarial Order No. 6 — revised visitation rules for nursing homes, effective Sept. 28, 2020