The North Carolina General Assembly recently passed a COVID-19 relief bill, which was then signed by Governor Cooper. Included in this bill was nearly $1.6 billion in relief for public health and safety, educational needs, small business assistance, and continuing state government operations. 

Following the passage of those monetary relief measures, the General Assembly also passed Senate Bill 704, which changed and modified some laws to fit our current pandemic situation. The following are some of the important changes that you need to be aware of.

Business Law

  • Essential businesses are not held liable for injury or death caused as a result of the customer contracting COVID-19 while doing business with the essential business
  • Employees of essential businesses will not be able to pursue civil suits for contracting COVID-19, with exception for gross negligence, reckless misconduct, or intentional infliction of harm. Note: equipment shortage will not be considered gross negligence. This measure also does not preclude employees from pursuing criminal actions or filing workers compensation claims.
  • Healthcare businesses have extended civil liability protection during the emergency declaration due to COVID-19. 
  • This does not provide blanket civil immunity, however, and timing is crucial for pursuing legal remedy as these portions of the bill expire when the COVID-19 emergency declaration is rescinded or expires.

Family Law

  • Now through August 1, 2020, Marriage certificates can be received by remote audio-video communication. The register of deeds must be able to “positively identify” each applicant.

DMV

  • Driver’s licenses will not expire until 30 days after the date the Governor ends the state of emergency or the date the DMV reopens all of its offices, whichever date comes first. 
  • Car inspections and registrations that are currently due between March 1, 2020 and August 1,2020 will be good for an extra five months after the expiration date.
  • The relocation of DMV headquarters has been delayed.

Health

  • Dentists are authorized to conduct COVID-19 diagnostic and antibody tests.
  • North Carolina will begin to develop its own strategic stockpile of personal protective equipment (PPE) and COVID-19 testing supplies.
  • Surgical masks can now be worn on a public street or walkway.
    • It was previously against the law to wear any sort of mask on a public street or walkway, with several exceptions. One exception was added, “to ensure the physical health or safety of the wearer or others.”
    • A person wearing a surgical mask for the purpose of ensuring physical safety and health must remove the mask upon the request of a law enforcement officer during a traffic stop, checkpoint, or roadblock, or if a law enforcement officer has reasonable suspicion or probable cause during a criminal investigation, 

Schools

  • School districts must set an opening date for students of August 17, 2020 and a closing date no later than June 11, 2021. 
    • The start date for Mecklenburg and surrounding counties may need to change due to the RNC. More information will be given at a later date.
  • School districts must develop a Remote Instruction Plan for the 20-21 school year just in case.
  • Teachers will get a one-year extension to meet licensure requirements.
  • Schools will not receive their own report cards based on students’ test score for the 2019-2020 school year.

Miscellaneous

  • Unpaid income tax will not accrue interest until July 15, 2020.
  • Notarizations can be done virtually until August 1, 2020.
  • Lottery winners have extra time to claim their prize.
  • Now through August 1, 2020, should a sheriff need to serve a judicial notice on a resident of a senior living facility, they may now leave a copy of the notice with the employee in charge of the facility’s office or with someone at the facility who has authority to receive documents intended for residents. 

Even with the courts running limited operations due to the COVID-19 pandemic, our experienced Charlotte attorneys are ready to help you with any legal issues you have. Talk to our team over the phone or via a virtual legal consultation from the comfort and safety of your home.