Hotels, other short-term places of lodging and retail stores in Wilkesboro and North Wilkesboro are addressed in new amendments to a state of emergency order already in place due to the coronavirus outbreak.
The latest amendments were announced Wednesday and were effective at noon that day.
Hotels, bed and breakfasts, VRBOs or any other short-term lodging providers in Wilkesboro and North Wilkesboro are prohibited from renting to out-of-town and out-of-state guests in the latest amended version of the order, signed Wednesday by Wilkesboro Mayor Mike Inscore and North Wilkesboro Mayor Robert Johnson.
The latest amended version also says, “The only exceptions are for guests currently occupying hotel rooms, as well as out-of-town/out-of-state guests known to hotel staff who regularly stay at that particular hotel during return trips to Wilkesboro and/or North Wilkesboro.”
The latest amendments say,
“• only one individual per family should enter a retail store to shop;
“• a child should not accompany a parent into a retail store if there is a person of suitable age available to supervise the child elsewhere;
“• social distancing must be maintained at all times inside a retail store or parking lot;
“• shoppers must follow signs and directions posted by stores to enable social distancing;
“• shoppers must wait for preceding customers to check out before placing their items on the check-out counter or conveyor.”
A press release sent Wednesday by North Wilkesboro Town Manager Wilson Hooper, bearing the seals of Wilkesboro and North Wilkesboro, says town leaders consulted with leaders from the local hospitality industry prior to implementing the action on Wednesday.
The press release says the latest measures are “being put into place to limit the opportunities for transmission of the virus in public spaces where spread could occur, and to prevent additional cases being introduced from outside the region.”
The first state of emergency order was signed on March 13 by North Wilkesboro Mayor Robert Johnson, Wilkesboro Mike Inscore, Ronda Mayor Victor Varela and Eddie Settle, chairman of the Wilkes County commissioners. This order prohibited gatherings of 100 or more people, but exempted those held for church or other religious purposes.
The first amended version of the state of emergency order, signed by Johnson, Inscore, Varela and Settle on March 19, prohibited mass gatherings of 50 or more and no longer exempted church and other religious gatherings.
The second amended version of the state of emergency order, signed by the three mayors but not Settle, prohibited mass gatherings of 10 or more people in the three towns. It also closed recreational amenities like playground equipment, picnic shelters and outdoor athletic courts, both publicly- or privately-owned in the towns.
An order issued by Gov. Roy Cooper on March 27 prohibited mass gatherings of more than 10 people statewide and didn’t exclude churches. However, it allowed gatherings of up to 50 people at funerals.
The state of emergency order in Wilkes County, including the three towns, is place through April 30. Cooper’s order requiring people to stay and home and limiting the size of mass gatherings is on effect through April 29.
Outside Wilkesboro, North Wilkesboro
Eddie Settle, chairman of the Wilkes County commissioners, is urging owners of short-term rental properties in Wilkes County to “please exercise extreme caution and follow recommended guidelines from the CDC and N.C. Department of Health and Human Service on all rentals in order to continue preventing the spread of COVID-19.”
This statement was sent to media Tuesday by Sarah Call, clerk to the Wilkes County commissioners.
Settle said in the statement that he was referencing “campgrounds, air bed and breakfasts, VRBO units, guest houses, hotels, motels, inns, timeshares units, condos, vacation cabins, home rentals, RV parks and other similar rentals.”
He added, “Your cooperation in this regard is critical, since we are trying to limit opportunities for this virus to be passed to others. Homeowners’ associations are encouraged to assist in this effort where possible.
Dale Isom, president of Wilkesboro-based Spectrum Hospitality Management LLC, said Wednesday afternoon that Wilkesboro officials sought his input on the matter and Spectrum hotel staff sought concerns of guests.
Spectrum properties in Wilkesboro include the Holiday Inn Express, which was closed last week. Isom said the Hampton Inn in Wilkesboro, which Spectrum also owns, is currently only providing long-term housing to local people during construction on their homes. He said “extraordinary safety measures” have been implemented at Spectrum’s hotels.
Isom said that with some nearby counties ordering closure of short-term rentals, Wilkesboro officials were afraid people from other parts of the nation would flood places of lodging in Wilkes. “They were concerned about the public’s health and we are too. So far, we’ve not seen folks from large cities or folks trying to get away from places come to us…. There is no tourism going on, and three-plus weeks ago business travel stopped. Our normal business clientele is all staying home,” said Isom.
“We certainly support the town’s effort to keep everybody safe and healthy and enforce the prohibition. We’re trying to do our part. The toughest part of what we’re dealing with is sending our associates home—that’s been pretty heartbreaking, but thankfully we’re all looking at this as a short-term thing and are looking forward to when we can reopen.”
In Watauga, Ashe counties
Local governments in Watauga and Ashe counties banned short-term rentals in those counties, including the municipalities within them, on March 26.
The action applies to hotels, motels, resorts, inns, guest houses, bed and breakfasts, campgrounds, RV parks, vacation cabins and home rentals. It doesn’t apply to rentals for business, medical, construction, emergency services or related services.