By Nathan Ham
Town, county, and state governments have to work together during this scary time, as all three are responsible for their citizens taking the most precautions to limit and hopefully eliminate the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus.
Here in Watauga County, there is a daily conference call between AppHealthCare, Watauga County Manager Deron Geouque, Boone Town Manager John Ward, Blowing Rock Town Manage Shane Fox and Seven Devils Town Manager Debbie Powers to discuss changes and additional news in regards to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Decisions for each town are left up to the mayor or town manager during the state of emergency. Town councils can weigh in on the issues, but there is no official vote taken on any town measures.
“We are trying our best to follow the proper protocol and not make decisions that would adversely affect citizens and business owners,” said Blowing Rock Mayor Charlie Sellers. “We’re just trying to make decisions that are best suited for everyone’s health, safety, and awareness.”
As some towns across the state have already done, they can add additional guidelines and requirements through their state of emergency declarations that may not be mentioned by the state. At least for right now, Mayor Sellers says that the towns working with the county on a united front are what he feels is the right decision.
“In my conversations with (Town Manager) Shane Fox, we feel like it’s best that we have a unified approach with all the communities as one. We have seen some communities that have gone above the state of emergency but we just feel like that since we’re all very close-knit communities, it is best that we all work as one,” Sellers said. “Some towns on the coast have implemented guidelines that if you are not a resident, you cannot get into the community. That is something that I don’t foresee for any of our communities.”
Sellers added that if anything major did change and some additional measurements needed to be taken within the town, he would want a majority vote for or against from the town council. That would mean finding a way to hold a special meeting, possibly through online software such as Zoom, and then finding a way for the public to watch and communicate their voices through the telephone or online.
“I feel like any extreme decisions should be the decision of all the council and hopefully we do not reach that point,” the mayor said. “I feel like that what we’ve done is going to be enough to deter the long-term effects of the virus. None of us really know what is going to happen short-term. There are so many tests that have not come back and there are people that have it that don’t even know they have it.”
Several second homeowners have made their way to Blowing Rock, and Mayor Sellers is asking that they all quarantine themselves for 14 days and to get tested if they have any symptoms.
Most all of the retail stores in Blowing Rock have closed down unless they fall under the essential category. In addition to the store closures, the Town of Blowing Rock has closed the basketball courts, tennis courts, gazebo and picnic areas at Memorial Park, the Davant Ball Field, and all public restrooms.
Restaurants are still open in Blowing Rock trying to feed patrons with take-out orders.
“Some restaurants are offering discounted meals, some restaurants have shortened their menus. I recommend people calling ahead to find out how their menu has changed,” said Mayor Sellers. “I’d say 90 percent of our restaurants are open.”
Sellers wanted to extend a special thanks to the town citizens, town officials and public safety personnel for working to abide by all social distancing requirements and stay-at-home orders to resolve the virus issues as quickly as possible.