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The Boone Town Council on Thursday adopted amendments to the town’s COVID-19 state of emergency declaration that restrict visitors from entering indoor retail facilities.
The new restrictions state that, except for commuters who regularly work in Watauga County, all persons (residents and non-residents) arriving in Boone “are not permitted to enter any establishment open to the public or any other indoor public area in the town limits unless and until such time as they have self-isolated in Watauga County for an uninterrupted overnight stay of at least 14 days.”
The declaration defines “establishment open to the public” as grocery stores, convenience stores, large-format retail stores, pharmacies, banks, ABC stores, hardware stores and vehicle dealerships. Also included are town offices, nonprofit offices, “or other places where members of the public are permitted to and do enter to obtain goods, services, information or assistance.”
The ordinance defines a visitor as someone “who previously overnighted outside Watauga County, whether such persons are visiting the town for the day or staying overnight.” It further states that indoor public areas does not apply to medical, state or county facilities.
The restrictions, effective immediately, were passed the day before Watauga County’s 14-day self-quarantine order was to be lifted. The amendments will remain in effect until at least June 16.
The council remotely voted 3-1 to approve the amendments, with Councilwoman Nancy LaPlaca electing against and Councilwoman Loretta Clawson not voting due to illness, according to the Watauga Democrat newspaper in Boone.
The amendments reference “a significant rise in the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in counties near to Boone, including in Wilkes and Burke counties.” No other counties are mentioned.
The amendments state that violations are punishable by a class 2 misdemeanor and that law enforcement officers are authorized to first issue warning citations.
In addition, the amendments require the following measures in Boone until further notice:
• Social distancing is required in all establishments open to the public, in all places of employment and in all public areas except at businesses where distancing is not possible, and except for members of the same household.
• Employees working for establishments open to the public are required to wear masks — except for employees with a medical or behavioral condition or safety concern — and to disinfect hands after each interaction.
• To the extent possible, hand sanitizer or disinfectant shall be offered to customers as they enter and leave premises.
• In retail businesses that can accommodate it, aisles must be designated as one-way.
• Restaurants may use only disposable menus or menus that are disinfected in between each use.
• Employees of public establishments must be subject to a daily screening process before the employee begins work, to check for COVID-19 symptoms, and employees should not be permitted to work if they have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or are presumed positive due to symptoms until they meet Centers for Disease Control criteria for release from isolation.
Watauga County declared a state of emergency on March 15, and county commissioners voted May 19 to lift a 14-day quarantine order and allow short-term rentals at 50% capacity at the beginning of Phase 2 of Gov. Roy Cooper’s statewide reopening plan, which begins at 5 p.m. Friday.