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North Carolina, Dare County- Amid public health concerns due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Outer Banks banned visitors on Tuesday. Dare County declared an emergency order that only allows residents, property owners, business owners and workers through two checkpoints that access the area.
The N.C. General Statute 166A-19.31 gives certain local leaders the authority to pass restrictions “controlling ingress and egress of an emergency area, and the movement of persons within that area.”
Entry into Dare County’s Outer Banks access points requires a permit, which can be applied for online. However, a high volume of applicants is causing difficulties on the county’s emergency management website.
The news could leave some immigrant communities wondering what they should do if they live near the restricted points of access, which include four counties, and need to travel back and forth.
Dare County’s website indicates two forms of identification that qualify for proof of “permanent resident” status: a valid NC driver’s license with a Dare, Currituck, Hyde, or Tyrrell county address; or, a government-issued identification card with a local address. For undocumented populations, neither of these forms of identification are available.
Hispanic population in Dare County
According to the latest U.S. Census data, the Hispanic population makes up 7.3% of the overall population in Dare County, 3.6% in Currituck County, 8.4% in Hyde County and 7.6% in Tyrell County.
On a phone call yesterday with Enlace Latino NC, Dare County Manager Bobby Outten said they are being “liberal” with the types of documents someone can show as long as they prove residence or a work-related reason for being there. Exceptions are also made for anyone with a medical appointment.
“If there’s anything to indicate that you have a reason for being here, they are letting you through the checkpoints,” he said.
“If you’re coming in as a resident, then you have to have something that shows you’re a resident. It could be a government ID with a local address on it, or an electric bill that shows you live here. If you have a water bill, they’ll say ‘go right in.” Any resident of Dare County can come and go as they please.”
He also said that workers driving in trucks with official logos on them, or wearing a worker’s shirt or uniform with a business logo, will be allowed in. Employers are able to apply for up to thirty worker entry permits online, as well.
According to Outten, the main reason for the restrictions is “to keep the mass influx of tourists out.” He said tourism agencies were promoting “coronavirus vacation” deals last week.
On March 16, the Outer Banks Voice reported that an unnamed rental company posted the following on its website: “With national threats of the coronavirus blanketing the news, you may think now is not the time for a vacation. But on the contrary, the Outer Banks is a great option for your spring vacation despite the coronavirus. Here are a few reasons why you can still enjoy spring at this beautiful beach destination.” The post has since been removed.
"Can´t deal with it"
“Our visitor population often reaches up to 300,000,” said Outten. “We have one small hospital in Nags Head. We can’t deal with that.”
According to the Nags Head Outer Banks Hospital website, there are 18 beds in the facility.
Since the restrictions were put into place at 2 p.m. Tuesday, Outten says only two people have been turned away and traffic on the Wright Memorial Bridge “moves smoothly.” The other access point is at the intersections of Highways 64 and 264.
Outten didn’t rule out the concern within the immigrant community, but stressed that if anyone has reason to be in Dare County, then they will be allowed through the checkpoint.
“Is someone not coming in who normally would if they are afraid they would get in trouble? I suppose that’s possible,” said Outten. “But that’s not what’s going on. We aren’t asking who’s in the car. All we need to know is that you have a legitimate reason to be here. If you’ve got four surfboards and three suitcases, we’re not going to let you in.”