Coronavirus (COVID-19) Updates
The Johnston County Visitors Bureau team is closely monitoring the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on behalf of our visitors and tourism partners in an effort to stay informed on the effects this event is having and will have on the Johnston County area. The situation continues to evolve rapidly and the safety and health of our community, its residents, and our visitors is our top priority. We have worked with industry colleagues and both state and county resources to compile the following information on where you can find the most up-to-date news from health officials at every level. In addition, we have provided resources specific to the tourism trade coming from some of the top sources in the industry at this time.
NCDHHS and Gov. Roy Cooper continue to issue new announcements and guidance weekly related to the Coronavirus. You can find a full list of press releases with information pertaining to each update on the NCDHHS website here.
******** May 14, 2021 - Following the recent guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that fully vaccinated individuals can safely do most activities without wearing a mask or the need to social distance from others, the state will remove its indoor mask mandate for most settings. Additionally, the state will lift all mass gathering limits and social distancing requirements. These changes are now in effect as of May 14th at 1:30 PM.
In accordance with the new CDC guidance, there will still be certain settings where masks and other safety measures will be required. Masks will still be required in child care, schools and camps as most children are either not yet vaccinated or are not yet eligible to be vaccinated.
Everyone, including people who are fully vaccinated will still be required to wear a mask in certain settings such as public transportation, health care settings like hospitals, doctor’s offices and long-term care settings like nursing homes, and certain congregate settings like correctional facilities and homeless shelters.
NCDHHS will continue to have strong public health recommendations for individuals to continue to protect one another until more people are vaccinated. People who are not vaccinated should wear a mask and maintain distance in all indoor public settings and in outdoor settings when they can't maintain six feet of distance.
Masks are strongly recommended for everyone at large crowded indoor events like sporting events and live performances.
NCDHHS recommends public facing businesses post signage reminding guests to social distance and wear a face covering if they are not fully vaccinated; remind employees to self-monitor for symptoms of COVID-19; have a plan to immediately isolate and remove sick workers; and clean high-touch surfaces once a day. Businesses may choose to continue to require that their customers wear masks.
The Department of Health and Human Services will also continue to expand strategies to reach people who have not yet gotten vaccinated.
Information on the state’s vaccine distribution is available at YourSpotYourShot.nc.gov (English) or Vacunate.nc.gov (Spanish). People can find nearby vaccine providers using NCDHHS’ online tool, Find a Vaccine Location. The state’s COVID-19 vaccine hotline number is 888-675-4567.
Read the Executive Order. | Read a FAQ about the Order.
******* The Governor of North Carolina announced on March 23, 2021 that he is further easing retrictions on tourism and hospitality related businesses including restaurants, bars, hotels, and event venues. Executive Order 204 goes into effect Friday, March 26, 2021. You can find more information about what EO 204 means for tourism businesses here on the NCRLA website.
EO 204 Highlights:
Other State Links:
The North Carolina Restaurant and Lodging Association has created an entire website to organize and share information and resources regarding the Coronavirus as it relates to the hospitality industry. The website also has a very helpful FAQ page, webinars, and guidance for employers and employees who may be dealing with closure and unemployment.
***** As of May 18th the North Carolina Restaurant & Lodging Association has launched Count On Me NC, an evolving training platform and marketing campaign. All training classes are active. Educate yourself on how to keep your business clean and your customers healthy, and learn how businesses and guests alike are taking the pledge to help make that happen. Course completion earns you a certificate and marketing materials for the Count On Me Campaign. Learn more at the dedicated website.
***** The NC Department of Health released guidance for restaurants; you can follow this link to the information. Please make note that the guidance includes and identifies both requirements and recommendations. There are 10 requirements for restaurants, they are listed below?
- Ensure social distancing by arranging tables and seating to achieve at least 6-foot separation between parties for indoor and outdoor dining. Each group of people sitting at a counter should be separated by six (6) feet
- Permit no more than 50% of maximum occupancy as stated in fire capacity.
- Post the reduced “Emergency Maximum Capacity” in a conspicuous place. Sign templates are available in English and Spanish on the NC DHHS COVID-19 response site
- Post signage reminding people about social distancing (staying at least 6 feet away from others). Know Your W's sign templates are available in English and Spanish on the NC DHHS COVID-19 response website. Face coverings for employees and guests are now mandatory.
- Mark six (6) feet of spacing in lines at high-traffic areas for customers, such as any cash register or any place where customers wait to be seated
- Perform ongoing and routine environmental cleaning and disinfection of high-touch areas (e.g., doors, doorknobs, rails) with an EPA approved disinfectant for SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19), and increasing disinfection during peak times or high customer density times and all shared objects (e.g., payment terminals, tables, countertops/bars, receipt trays, condiment holders) between use. Disinfect dining tables and booths, including condiment containers and reusable menus, between each use, allowing the disinfectant to sit for the necessary contact time recommended by the manufacturer.
- Promote frequent use of handwashing and hand sanitizer for wait/food service staff upon reporting to work and frequently throughout a shift. Hand washing is required to at least meet the requirements as specified in the North Carolina Food Code Manual, Sections 2-301.12, 2- 301.14, and 2-301.15
- Conduct daily symptom screening (use this Standard Interview Questionnaire: English|Spanish) of employees at the entrance, immediately sending symptomatic workers home to isolate
- Post signage at the main entrance requesting that people who have been symptomatic with fever and/or cough not enter, such as Know Your Ws/Stop if You Have Symptoms flyers (English - Color, Black & White; Spanish - Color, Black & White)
- Employees who have symptoms when they arrive at work or become sick during the day should immediately be separated from other employees, customers, and visitors and sent home.
Again, you can follow this link to download and print a pdf including all information on requirements and recommendations.
*****As of April 8th, the state has been approved by FEMA to work with hotels to secure housing options for certain individuals. You can learn more about the program here, as well as find an email to contact about participating in the program as a lodging partner.
Airbnb and VRBO: Airbnb and VRBO Guidance for hosts and guests.
Roger Dow, the President of the U.S. Travel Association, is hosting video conversations with travel experts and recently spoke to the President & CEO of Choice Hotels International. This discussion may interest some of our hotel partners and you can find the video here.
Interim Guidance for Businesses from NCDHHS
Guidance for Businesses from the SBA
Google Info: As recently as the first of June, Google sent out an email to address the many unique challenges for tourism operators and businesses. Here are a few tips they provided on how businesses can provide accurate information to their customers:
- If your hours of operation have changed, edit your Business Profile on Google.
- Use Posts to communicate information directly on your Business Profile on Google, like special offers or inventory updates.
- Consider setting an email auto-reply with answers to frequently asked questions.
TripAdvisor Info: As of the end of June, TripAdvisor has launched its own initiative, Travel Safe, which implements a multi-level approach to help consumers feel safe as they begin to travel again. The most important part of this program for our partners is that it allows hotel owners to share safety measures directly on their TripAdvisor listing. Let visitors know what you're doing to keep them safe.
As of 4/20/21: Via the NCRLA recently, the JCVB Team received information that The Small Business Association (SBA) released a sample application for the Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF) Grant, along with a program guide. They are not accepting applications yet, but the release of the sample application gives restaurants an opportunity to review and prepare. Use the SBA's cross-program eligibility chart on SBA COVID-19 relief options. Eligible entities are businesses that are not permanently closed and include businesses where the public or patrons assemble for the primary purpose of being served food or drink including:
- Food stands, food trucks, food carts
- Bars, saloons, lounges, taverns
- Snack and nonalcoholic beverage bars
- Brewpubs, tasting rooms, taprooms
- Breweries and/or microbreweries
- Wineries and distilleries
- Licensed facilities or premises of a beverage alcohol producer where the public may taste, sample, or purchase products
Get the program details such as specific eligibility requirements, funding amount, allowable use of funds and more; if you haven’t already, sign up for RRF email updates from the SBA. The link to the SBA's RRF page is here.
As of mid-October: The state tourism office (VisitNC) released information about MURR, which stands for the Mortgage, Utility and Rent Relief Program. This program is designed to help those businesses that were closed April to August: museums, bars, bowling alleys, movie theaters, yoga studios, indoor venues, fitness centers, etc. If your business has experienced extraordinary disruption and has not been able to open due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the new MURR Program may offer assistance with some of your fixed costs like mortgage, rent, and utilities. To learn if you qualify and to apply visit this link: https://www.nccommerce.com/grants-incentives/disaster-recovery/mortgage-utility-and-rent-relief-murr-program.
On 5/4/20: The General Assembly unanimously approved a series of measures to support the health and economic well-being of North Carolina. A key provision in the legislation is $125 million provided to the Golden Leaf Foundation for support of the NC Rapid Recovery Loan Program. NC Rapid Recovery is available to NC small businesses and provides loans up to $50,000 with 6 months no payments followed by 48 months of principal and interest payments at a 5.5% rate. NC Rapid Recovery initially received applications in excess of its original funding before the General Assembly approval of additional funds. The program is still accepting applications and they will be processed on a first come first serve basis. Businesses interested in applying should do so as soon as possible.
As of September 2020 - Rapid Response Program providing HR support to businesses via Family Forward NC
Thread Capital (NC Rural Center)
EDPNC: North Carolina Business Relief Resources (you can also call and speak to a Business Counselor at 1-800-228-8443)
Governor Cooper lifted restrictions on unemployment for anyone affected by COVID-19 in all industries. These lifted restrictions include; removing the one-week waiting period to apply for unemployment benefits for workers who lost their jobs, removing the requirement that a person must look for another job during this time when so many potential employers are closed and social distancing guidelines are in effect, allowing employees who lose their jobs, or in certain cases have their hours reduced due to COVID-19 issues, to apply for unemployment benefits, permitting applicants to apply for benefits remotely by phone or online, directing that employers will not be held responsible for benefits paid as a direct result of these COVID-19 claims.
NEW PROGRAM as of mid-October: If you are seeking assistance with rent or utility payments, there is a new state program called the N.C. Housing Opportunities and Prevention of Evictions (HOPE) Program. For more information, citizens can call 2-1-1 or visit nc211.org/hope to apply online.
Employers can find info regarding unemployment insurance from the NC Department of Commerce, Division of Employment Security. Contact the DES Employer Call Center with any questions or concerns: 866-278-3822.
The Economic Development Partnership of NC is maintaining a page on their website with a list of immediate job opportunities across the state.
Here are a few JoCo Employment Opportunities (posted as we know about them): Sami's Pizza is hiring a cashier, Redneck BBQ Lab is looking for a Sous Chef, Under the Oak is looking for a Farm Hand, The Yellow House in Clayton is looking for cooks, retail associates, and more, First Street Tavern is looking for a cook, Big Steve's Bagels is accepting applications, Kobe Japanese Steak House in Clayton is looking for servers and hostesses, BBQ Provision Company is looking for more team members, Waffee Wagon is looking for baristas and cashiers, Tucker Lake in Benson is looking for a Lifeguard, J Top's BBQ Shop is looking for a Front End Assistant Manager, San Marcos is looking for an experienced Cook, Cornerstone Cafe & Coffee in Benson is looking for a part-time Cook, Three Little Birds looking for more team members, The Gilded Pear Brew House is looking for kitchen staff, Double Barley Brewing is looking for a part-time weekend kitchen team member.
- The county has created a landing page dedicated to COVID-19 information and updates
- Johnston Community College has created a web page and will post any relevant Corona Virus updates here
- Johnston County Public Schools posted an update regarding field trips and interscholastic athletics with detailed information on their Facebook page; they have also posted a plan on their website
- We will continue to work with the Johnston County Public Health Department, Johnston County Emergency Management, and others to continue to keep you updated on developments
- We have not activated any visitor-facing messaging at this point. Our Johnston County Tourism Crisis Management Plan will guide our Crisis Management Team as needed when needed
- As this situation evolves, check with event organizers directly on events that may be impacted or postponed
- Our team is in regular contact with the State Tourism Office (VisitNC)
- Johnston County Emergency Services has created a COVID-19 hotline for general questions regarding the virus, at 919-989-5400
Links with factual updates:
- The most up-to-date information for North Carolina is located at the NCDHHS website here.
- The most up-to-date information on a federal level is available on the CDC’s website here.
On Social Media:
- NC Department of Health and Human Services
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
- NC Emergency Management
- Johnston County Emergency Services
We continue to closely monitor the COVID-19 situation and are working with our industry peers as well as state and local level government officials to respond accordingly and responsibly. We are also still working to keep this page up to date as the situation evolves, but please be sure to also follow the resources listed on this page for the most current information from officials.