Swain County Board of Commissioners has taken one step further to reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus COVID-19, restricting those in the county to stay at home and go out only for essential activities.
The supplement to the State of Emergency was adopted 4-1 during a special called session Friday morning. Commissioner Kenneth Parton was the opposing vote. It goes into effect beginning at 8 p.m. tonight, Friday, March 27 and is in effect until Thursday, April 16 but might be extended later.
The action follows similar steps taken by other states and local governments, including recently Buncombe County and Haywood County, as the spread of the respiratory disease has continued to increase in the United States.
People in the county are to stay home but can leave to receive or provide essential services or work for essential businesses or government services. Non-essential businesses are to cease as is non-essential travel.
In addition, the order calls for people to follow the guidelines of the US Centers for Disease Control for social distancing when they are not at home: staying six feet apart and not meeting in groups of 10 or more.
Those violating the order are subject to Class 2 misdemeanor.
People can still continue going out for the things they need, such as going to the grocery store, pharmacy or the hardware store.
“Leaving the home for essential activities is permitted for necessary supplies and services, outdoor activity, to take care of others, for certain types of work, healthcare operations,” explains County Manager Kevin King.
“It’s a combination of a lot of different best practices throughout the state. There are about 15 entities that have shelter in place stay home, stay safe documents,” he added. “It allows for most trades businesses to continue to work, it allows all access for people to get supplies- groceries, construction supplies…”
The proclamation outlines 21 essential business categories that are excluded from the rule, in other words, the businesses will continue operations as they are currently. The businesses include stores like grocery stores, pharmacies, restaurants that are offering take-out or drive-thru, charitable and social services, media, gas stations, banks, hardware stores, and mail delivery. In addition, trades are to continue as are those selling supplies, childcare centers, and professional services like legal counsel.
“There’s not a lot of difference than what we’re doing now; it puts some more teeth into it,” said County Emergency Manager David Breedlove. “It will increase the sheriff’s case load. This order is probably a good thing, and I say that based on when this emergency’s over, will we say we did we do all we can do for the citizens of Swain County?”
“Essentially this is a stay home, stay safe order with enough exceptions that we can still fully function as a government and families at home,” he added.
Among businesses that would be ordered to cease and work from home include realty offices, King pointed out. He said he had already heard from the realty association but that that would not be considered an essential professional service.
To deter realtors showing houses to people in person, even those who might be from out of state during the crisis, King said.
“Realtors would be able to show houses virtually; they can still function but not have face to face operation,” Breedlove added.
Similarly, county offices like the tax office and register of deeds will be closed during the two-week period. Essential services, such as sanitation, will continue as usual.
Similarly, those traveling in and/or out of Swain County can continue to do so for essential services.
For questions, people are encouraged to call the health department hotline at 488-3198, call 211 or text COVIDNC to 898211.