Dare County Manager Robert Outten releases a video Tuesday afternoon announcing the county is closing its borders. Screengrab from Dare County government website.
Dare County Manager Robert Outten releases a video Tuesday afternoon announcing the county is closing its borders. Screengrab from Dare County government website.

One coastal North Carolina county closed its borders at 2 p.m. Tuesday, citing the coronavirus pandemic state of emergency.

People wanting to get into Dare County need to show proof that they are permitted to be there while the statewide emergency lasts.

COVID-19 NC news

As of late Tuesday, no positive tests for the virus have been reported for Dare County residents. County officials want to keep it that way.

Cheryl Anby, clerk to the county Board of Commissioners, talked with Carolina Public Press about the situation. She said the county’s “control group,” which consists of the county manager, chair of the county commissioners, mayors of all towns, superintendent of schools and health department director, met for four to five hours to discuss appropriate steps.

Ultimately, they invoked the county’s right during a declared emergency to limit people coming into Dare County. 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.” The statute also allows for any mayor or the chair of the county commissioners to impose such a restriction during an emergency.

Under the statute, the restrictions can remain in place until the county lifts the ban or North Carolina’s state of emergency ends.

So far, no other county is known to have taken this step.  

Anby told CPP that the county, most of which is on the Outer Banks, is often “a place people go when they have no place else to go,” and the county did not want to allow that in this situation.

According to the county’s website, Dare County has already experienced logistical problems with the new policy: “Due to high demand for the online entry permitting system, some users have experienced difficulties applying for entry permits. We apologize for the inconvenience.”

Generally, permits are available to Dare County permanent residents who can show valid driver licenses or government-issued ID cards with local addresses, nonresident property owners who can show a current tax bill and people with proof that they have business in Dare County. Drivers are expected to display permits on their dashboards. 

More details about seeking a permit and the types of proof accepted can be found on the county’s website.

The county also is not allowing visitors to travel through Dare County to get to areas of other counties that are difficult to access without passing through Dare, such as Corolla in Currituck County and Ocracoke Island in Hyde County.

However, Dare County will allow people who “reside, own property or work” in those specific areas of the adjacent counties to get permits to enter Dare County.

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Frank Taylor is managing editor of Carolina Public Press. Email ftaylor@carolinapublicpress.org to contact him. Kate Martin is Carolina Public Press lead investigative reporter. Email kmartin@carolinapublicpress.org to contact her.

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