New Hanover County declares State of Emergency, limits gatherings to 10, closes public beach access to prevent spread of COVID-19

Posted March 20, 2020 at 5:23 pm     Category: Emergency ManagementEmergency NewsNews ReleaseParks and GardensPublic Health

NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC – New Hanover County, authorized by Board of Commissioners Chair Julia Olson-Boseman, issued a State of Emergency today, March 20, prohibiting gatherings of more than 10 people and closing public beach access points, in order to ensure social distancing and reduce risk of COVID-19. The State of Emergency is effective as of 5 p.m. and applies to the unincorporated areas of the county, City of Wilmington, and all beach communities.

The State of Emergency specifically states:

Section 4: Beaches
Access to beaches including, but not limited to, wet and dry public trust strands is prohibited with noncompliance enforceable as a trespass and as otherwise authorized by General Statute 166A. This prohibition does not include boat launches or docks.

Section 5: Prohibitions and Restrictions
Prohibited gathering is defined as any event or convening that brings together more than ten (10) persons in a single room or single space at the same time, such as an auditorium, stadium, arena, large conference room, meeting hall, theater, or any other confined indoor or outdoor space. This includes parades, fairs, and festivals. A prohibited gathering does not include normal operations at airports, bus and train stations medical facilities, shopping malls and centers or other spaces where more than ten (10) person are gathered.  It also does not include office environments, factories, grocery stores, or other retail establishments.

New Hanover County coordinated with all municipalities within the county on the terms of this State of Emergency. At this time, Carolina Beach and Wrightsville Beach have also issued their own State of Emergency declarations.

New Hanover County’s State of Emergency can be viewed here.

“The State of Emergency provides consistency across all of New Hanover County and promotes social distancing to help protect us each individually, as well as others,” said New Hanover County Board of Commissioners Chair Julia Olson-Boseman. “We know limiting gatherings and beach access can be inconvenient for our community, but it is an important step to keep our residents safe. We are being proactive so that we don’t have to close other facilities or important services in our community, and we need people to take this order seriously. The more we can do now to limit the spread of this virus, the better.”

Bridges are still open, and businesses on the islands will continue to operate, abiding by the current Governor’s orders. Only public access to the beach strands is prohibited at this time. Residents are encouraged to support local businesses by using online services, purchasing gift cards and ordering takeout or delivery.

The beach access restrictions include Carolina, Kure and Wrightsville beach strands, as well as Masonboro Island.

The county will also close public restrooms at all county parks until further notice. This is due to the higher level and frequency of cleaning and sanitation recommended for high volume public restrooms to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The county’s parks and gardens remain open, but visitors cannot congregate in groups of more than 10 and must maintain a distance of six feet from one another.

To prevent the spread of COVID-19, residents are encouraged to continue increased prevention measures and practice limited contact with others:

  • Follow social distancing: gatherings of more than 10 people are prohibited, under the State of Emergency, and individuals are encouraged to maintain 6 feet of distance from others.
  • Wash hands frequently with soap and water, and for at least 20 seconds each time.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are ill.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze.
  • Do not reuse tissue after coughing, sneezing, or blowing your nose.
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces that are frequently touched (like your phone, tablet, countertops and daily work surfaces).
  • Stay home and away from others when you are sick.

Residents are also encouraged to prepare for the potential impacts of COVID-19 as you would for other emergencies, using the ReadyNHC steps:

    • Make a Plan
      • Plan for social distancing and other prevention measures.
      • If at-risk, cancel plans to attend large events and non-essential travel.
      • Plan for limiting the need to go out in public by utilizing services like delivery of groceries and other goods.
    • Build a Kit
      • Have non-perishable food and water, medications and anything you need to stay home for several days to limit the risk of COVID-19 and other respiratory illnesses in your household.
    • Stay Informed



As of 5:15 p.m. Friday, March 20, 2020, there is one presumptive positive case of COVID-19 in New Hanover County and preparedness plans are in place for the health and safety of our community. For updates and resources related to the COVID-19 virus in New Hanover County, visit or call 910-798-6800.

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Communications and Outreach: 230 Government Center Drive, Suite 195 • Wilmington, NC 28403 • Phone 910-798-7461 • Fax 910-798-7277
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