County will now follow state guidelines only
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BAKERSVILLE – The Mitchell County Board of Commissioners used a portion of its six-hour-long budget workshop Friday, April 24, to lift restrictions made in an April 2 meeting in an attempt to slow the spread of novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, of which there have been five known cases in Mitchell County.
The board implemented local restrictions at the April 2 meeting by amending its State of Emergency proclamation initially adopted Monday, March 16, to include more strict guidelines on lodging, travel and mass gatherings, as well as establish a countywide curfew. All local restrictions were lifted Friday, April 24, and the county will now adhere to state guidelines only.
“I’ve talked with all of you about our local ordinances concerning COVID-19,” said Matthew “Vern” Grindstaff, vice chair of the Mitchell County Board of Commissioners. “Right now we have in place no rentals, and that would include Airbnbs, motels, hotels, VRBOs and all that. We implemented a curfew from 10 p.m.- 5 a.m. and we also implemented a mass gathering (rule) that was stricter than the governor’s order. No public mass gatherings of more than five individuals. I think the consensus among the board, and if the chairman pleases, we’ll open it up for discussion, but I believe the consensus was that we look at relaxing or suspending those.”
Commissioner Jeff Harding said he was initially in favor of the restrictions – the mass gatherings and curfew rule in particular – but has since changed his mind.
“It all boiled down to young people not being responsible and trying to err on the side of safety,” Harding said. “Now, I think the ones that are going to abide by it are going to abide by it regardless and the ones that won’t, won’t. And when (commissioner Grindstaff) and I talked about this, the problem I saw with this, and I won’t go into a lot of direct specifics, was our sheriff’s department in certain areas was not receiving any help enforcing these rules. And therefore, it put a whole lot more pressure on (Sheriff Donald Street). He never said a word to me about any of this. I saw it out of my own eyes.”
Harding then made the motion the steps put in place by the commissioners be rescinded and the county revert to following the state’s guidelines.
“I think that it’s important the public of Mitchell County continue to recognize this is a real virus,” Grindstaff said before offering a second to Harding’s motion. “There’s a lot of different opinions out there and a lot of different takes on COVID-19, and I respectfully hear everyone’s comments on it, but I would say to Mitchell County citizens that the Governor’s orders if we rescind these, will still be in place. Ours will go away, but I would encourage everyone if you don’t care about this yourself and your own health in Mitchell County, we need to continue to observe social distancing and take all precautions to protect others, not just ourselves, and I think that’s highly important, so if we don’t understand or believe or consider COVID-19 a real issue, we are a vulnerable county because of our age and our situations and I would encourage everybody to continue to observe the state standards and social distancing until there is other information available from medical professionals.”