The Boone Area Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors strongly disagrees with the action taken by the Boone Town Council Thursday night in adopting their State of Emergency Declaration.
The Boone Area Chamber of Commerce has advocated strongly from the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, through the #KeepBooneHealthy initiative, for people to follow the health and safety guidelines promoted by the CDC and AppHealthCare, while also encouraging residents to make as many local purchase decisions as possible to support our struggling business community.
In our public comments Thursday night, we advocated the need for a strong, cohesive, and united communication plan for all municipalities in Watauga County to follow, and positively promote the safety measures that have been implemented to protect local residents while also communicating the actions we strongly recommend people take when interacting with our community from outside our borders. This promotes solidarity in our messaging, around consistent health and safety guidelines that have been implemented by AppHealthCare.
Instead, the Boone Town Council’s action has caused great confusion and public backlash at a time when the State of North Carolina is also implementing new guidelines as they move into the Phase 2 Safer-At-Home order. We now face irreparable harm to the reputation of our business community and to the safety and wellbeing of our citizens.
We continue to support the guidance of AppHealthCare as the trusted voice of local public health concerns in our community. We feel the health guidelines outlined in the Town of Boone’s State of Emergency Declaration fall largely in place with those recommendations, or other State or industry guidance that applies to individual businesses. In fact, many businesses within the Town of Boone are already in compliance with most or all of this guidance.
Where the Boone Area Chamber of Commerce continues to disagree with Town Council centers around the language in section 4-i in the Definitions of the State of Emergency, which restricts visitors from entering our community.
i. Except for commuters who regularly work in Watauga County, all persons (residents and non-residents) arriving in the Town of Boone who previously overnighted outside Watauga County, whether such persons are visiting the Town for the day or staying overnight, are not permitted to enter any establishment open to the public other than medical offices and medical facilities unless and until such time as they have stayed in Watauga County for an uninterrupted overnight stay of at least 14 days; provided, however, that this subsection does not apply to a person who is confirmed pursuant to current testing guidelines issued by the CDC or NCDHHS not to be infected with COVID-19; This subsection (i) shall expire June 16, 2020 unless extended by action of Town Council;
The Board of Directors unanimously and unequivocally agree that your actions go too far. At a time where businesses across our county, region, and State are seeing restrictions removed, this action will maintain a heavy burden of business loss on a community that’s already been deeply impacted by the economic ramifications of the COVID-19 pandemic. Furthermore, this component has introduced a flood of unnecessary confusion about how local residents and visitors can realistically interact with our community.
We would have liked to have seen a more positive attempt at communicating a united community message, through trusted public health partners and community leaders, rather than this guidance coming off as regulatory and against the recommendations of local health officials. The Boone Area Chamber of Commerce stands ready to continue its role as a strong community voice in presenting a unified message that prioritizes the health and safety of all who interact with our community. We hope the Boone Town Council reconsiders their position and chooses to lead in a more proactive manner without creating unnecessary divisions in our community.
This area has been known as a welcoming community by generations of local residents and travelers alike. The businesses in this community have promoted the very best positive attributes of what Watauga County stands for, and given the opportunity, they will work in concert with local health officials to ensure the safety of their employees, local residents, and customers.