‘A gummy bear has more teeth’ than stay-at-home orders — so NC sheriff adds a curfew

Mark Price
The Charlotte Observer

COLUMBUS COUNTY, N.C. — A blunt talking North Carolina sheriff has stirred a hornet’s nest on social media by challenging the idea that stay-at-home orders are the smartest way to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.

Columbus County Sheriff Jody Greene says curfews are needed, too — something a small but growing number of communities have started enacting to keep people at home during the COVID-19 pandemic.

A 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew went into effect last Wednesday in Columbus County.

“A gummy bear has more teeth than the Governor’s stay at home order,” Greene posted on his personal Facebook page.

“I requested the curfew because our County Manager did not have a plan in place nor did he want to make a decision. …COVID is more contagious than the flu and is predicted to kill over 100,000 people,” he wrote. “Therefore, to protect the citizens of Columbus county I asked for something to be put in place that law enforcement could enforce.”

Curfews — most of them from sunset to sunrise — have been considered a last resort for cities and counties trying to stop the spread of the potentially fatal virus. But a jump in infections over the past two weeks has led to more communities exercising the option, including Columbia, S.C., Miami Beach, Florida, Flint, Michigan and Fayetteville, N.C., the home of Fort Bragg.

As of Friday morning, just under a quarter of a million Americans were confirmed to have the coronavirus, according to Johns Hopkins University. More than 6,000 people in the US have died from the virus while another 9,000 have recovered.

Stay-at-home orders have been criticized by some law enforcement officials because they are tough to enforce. The orders allow people to leave their home for “essential” health and welfare business, a provision that is easy to abuse.

Greene believes some people, including community leaders, aren’t taking the pandemic seriously enough — and that is putting first responders at risk.

“It’s time to take the politics out of this pandemic. We all are aware it is election year. People are more worried about a vote than the health, safety and well-being of our communities,” he posted.

Restrictive curfews remain controversial with news outlets like Reason.com calling them “self-imprisonment orders from panicky politicians.

“There is apparently a new competition afoot in this coronavirus-cursed country: Politicians vying to see who can impose the most freedom-infringing clampdown in the name of flattening the curve,” wrote Matt Welch on the site. “I, too, urgently hope that people mostly stay the hell away from each other over the coming weeks. But not at gunpoint.”

Social media reaction to the Columbus County curfew has been largely supportive, though debates rage on whether coronavirus curfews are necessary.

“Politicians and unelected bureaucrats are NOT kings,” posted Stephen Benton on the sheriff’s Facebook page. “There will very soon be wide spread civil unrest and it won’t just be the usual trouble making rabble that law enforcement usually deals with easily. No, it’ll probably be normally law abiding citizens who are armed to the teeth.”

“I’m conservative and about our liberty. I’m also about common sense, and this is a very common sense decision,” wrote John White in support of the curfew.

“Too many people are going about their day as normal. This virus is serious. It’s killing people of all ages and could wipe out our elderly population,” Charles Nance commented.

One Facebook commenter said he had actually been stopped by deputies the day Columbus County’s curfew went into effect at 10 p.m.

“The Sheriff’s department is taking this curfew very seriously,” Jeremy Ryan Hinson of Whiteville, N.C, wrote. “I was on my way home … when I was pulled over at 10:05 pm. The officer was very nice but stern about how serious this curfew is. I truly appreciate our law enforcement working to protect the citizens of Columbus County.”McClatchy-Tribune News Service