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Durham mayor to order residents to stay at home

Mayor Steve Schewel will impose a stay-at-home order in Durham on Wednesday to try to reduce the spread of coronavirus.

A shelter-in-place order imposed Tuesday in and around Charlotte limits travel on public roads to people needing medical care, food or other things vital to a person’s or family’s “well-being,” with public safety workers excluded.

Diagnosed cases of COVID-19 continue to rise in Durham with the diagnosed tally at 74 Tuesday in Durham County. At least one case was acquired from coronavirus exposure in the community with no link to international travel, county officials say.

The true number of cases of COVID-19 in Durham County, in North Carolina and the rest of the country is no doubt higher than the confirmed count. Real numbers are impossible to know due to limited testing.

Schewel will convene his live-broadcast press conference at 11 a.m. Wednesday to discuss his order. The mayor last week said he was considering shelter-in-place.

Durham schools staff are required to have their temperatures taken before they can participate in the lunch program. These women were at Easley Elementary School on Tuesday. .Photo by Corey Pilson

Durham public schools started getting food to children who normally receive free or reduced-price lunches when their schools are open. On the first weekday of providing lunch for students who are being kept home by the COVID-19 outbreak, Glenn Elementary went the extra mile.

Staff didn’t just hand out meals and schoolwork packets as had been advertised; they passed out extra bags of food, diapers and cleaning supplies.

About 5,570 students received lunch and snacks Monday, day one of  Durham Public Schools’ lunch and snack distribution for students who qualify for reduced-price or free meals when school is in session.

That’s a fraction of approximately 22,000 students who qualify but exceeds how many normally partake in the free or reduced lunches according to the executive director for DPS School Nutrition Services, Jim Keaten. On a given school day, only around 3,000 children receive free or reduced-cost meals, he said.

Schools officials said they would limit how many people could pick up food at the same time when they launched the program. Photo by Corey Pilson

There are no plans to add breakfast to the program’s menu because school officials have concluded that the turnout would be poor, said Keaten. 

Monday, Gov. Roy Cooper extended mandated school closures until May 15. That means DPS’ meal distribution program could be needed longer than originally predicted. 

On Tuesday Cooper committed $50 million for public schools “to address COVID-19- related expenses,” including school nutrition programs.  

As one step to reduce the risk of contagion, DPS is using individually wrapped foods, making this more expensive than normal lunch service. Employees must have their temperatures taken to work. — Victoria Eavis and Ben Leonard

Mayor Steve Schewel’s press conference Wednesday at 11 a.m. will be streamed live on the city’s Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube pages and broadcast live on Spectrum channel 8, Google Fiber channel 8, Frontier channel 70, and AT&T U-verse channel 99. 

At top: Durham Public Schools employees handed out food and school packets to families of children who for free or reduced lunch at Easley Elementary School Tuesday. They are making food available at 17 schools and 50 other sites, mostly apartment complexes and recreation centers. Photo by Corey Pilson