OBX – The residents of the Outer Banks are quite used to being a little disconnected from the rest of the hustle and bustle by virtue of their geography, but, then again, the hustle and bustle to get to the beach has been the economic life blood of these communities for ages. In the age of the coronavirus scare, though, and right at the onset of the spring busy season, that policy of OBX town governments welcoming visitors has been flipped on its head. Dare County has adopted a new pandemic policy: Absolutely No Dingbatters Allowed.
The county, having no cases of the Wuhan Coronavirus, blockaded itself off to keep it that way. With a few natural choke points in the form of bridges, and select highways in or out, Dare County Sheriffs Department has set up check points to enforce the blockade.
Own a home there? Too bad; if it isn’t your primary residence and isn’t listed on your driver’s license, then you are not being granted any access to your property, for a period of weeks. Whatever assets, resources, or other personal property the owner keeps there is now off limits, courtesy of the government. Perhaps a case that rises to the level of unlawful taking of property; a consideration probably already being mulled by constitutional lawyers.
The inevitable comparisons to pre- or post-hurricane restrictions only allay constitutional concerns so much. It’s a little easier to justify access restrictions when the roads are washed out and the ocean has overtaken much of the property owners may be interested in checking on. Yet, with the Wuhan Coronavirus hysteria, the argument becomes tenuous.
County leaders have encouraged kindness among residents — “we’re all in this together.” To woodsers that own property and pay taxes, but don’t carry a Dare County address on their license: your mere presence is barred, and you’re likely quite mommicked at this point. The Golden Rule — to treat others as you would like to be treated –works well until the panic of a pandemic takes hold.
To be sure, Dare County residents have legitimate concerns. With the near constant harangues about ‘flattening the curve to slow the spread and not overwhelming healthcare capacity with sick patients’ is at the top of everyone’s mind. The county has very limited healthcare resources as it is (one small hospital), and the beautiful beaches and properties are a magnet for those looking to ‘escape.’ The latter is especially true during a pandemic where inland counties are registering higher numbers of cases and inland residents are bristling at local restrictions. So, it follows:
‘Are those people going to bring the coronavirus here? We can’t handle an outbreak; we don’t have the resources or healthcare infrastructure to handle it. We’ve got to DO something.’
That ‘something’ was the decision to blockade itself off. Watching the evening news, seeing the constant infection numbers and death toll alerts, hearing the warnings from public health officials, it is easy to sympathize with their decision to quite literally isolate their county from the outside world.
Except they haven’t. Three days ago the Outer Banks registered its first confirmed case of the now notorious SARS-CoV2 infection. The individual is believed to have contracted it via ‘travel or direct contact,’ but they curiously did not use a Dare County address when conducting he test from N.C. Department of Health and Human Services.
So, while visitors, tourists, Sunday-afternoon-drivers, and non-resident property owners are denied access, residents were free to ebb and flow over the county lines. That means, despite the zero cases of coronavirus in Dare County at the start of the blockade, the risk is still remained.
Hopefully that person recovers quickly and with out issue. Moreover, we hope the infected person’s contact with others was limited. An investigation into their contacts is ongoing, but God forbid there is further contagion among residents of Dare County. With such few healthcare resources in way of hospital beds, if the universally feared spike in cases were to happen there, the county’s healthcare capacity would be strained. A small outbreak in the Outer Banks may overrun that capacity and force them to lean on the more robust healthcare infrastructure enjoyed by select nearby inland counties, as critically ill patients on the banks often do in non-pandemic times.
In that worst-case-scenario, hopefully the inland counties have not blockaded themselves off to all outsiders for fear of importing new cases of coronavirus.