By Clint Parker
Weaverville – Last Friday (May 1), the Town of Weaverville stopped following the guidance of Buncombe County when it comes to COVID-19 and started following the state mandates outline by the governor. The next day, they outlined how businesses could start reopening.
“In an effort to more closely align with the statewide COVID-19 response being led by Governor Cooper, the Town of Weaverville withdrew its consent to the provisions of Buncombe County’s Declarations concerning COVID-19,” said the press release sent by Weaverville Town Manager Selena Coffey.
Asked to clarify what that might mean different from the county’s mandate, Weaverville Mayor Al Root said, “I am not sure as to what the operational differences might be, because I cannot speak to the County’s operations. However, as to how our businesses can
operate, I would note that the County chose to eliminate the Governor’s general directive under EOC 121, Section 2.C.1 that allows the operation of businesses, not-for-profit organizations or educational institutions that conduct operations while maintaining social distancing requirements (a) between and among its employees; and (b) between and among employees and customers except at the point of sale or purchase.”
He went on to say, “I believe that there are many Weaverville businesses that can meet this standard if they wish to take the needed steps and should be allowed to do so. The County order does not allow them to do so unless they are in one of the limited categories listed elsewhere in the order.“
Some residents have criticized the more restrictive guidelines of the county. The release stated, “The town found it reasonable to be included in the county’s restrictions ahead of the implementation of the initial statewide restrictions by the Governor. Now that the governor has put in place a comprehensive set of restrictions aimed at protecting North Carolina’s citizens, the town has weighed whether the more restrictive provisions of the county’s orders are needed in Weaverville.”
“We have concluded that Weaverville does not present unique circumstances that require restrictions above and beyond what Governor Cooper adopted statewide based on the public health guidance that he is receiving,” the release went on to state. “In reliance on the governor’s action as being reasonable and in the interest of the public’s health, the town will proceed under the governor’s executive orders.”
Asked how the town arrived at this new position, Root said, “As Weaverville’s Mayor I am authorized to take this step, but in doing so I have been provided much wise and appreciated advice from town council and staff.”
The release also stated that this does not mean business as usual. “This action does not signal an immediate return to our previous ‘normal’ – the governor has made clear that we have a long way to go before we reach that goal. It does, however, provide a reasonable loosening of restrictions. The town will be working with the Governor’s office and Weaverville’s businesses to ensure full compliance with the statewide regulations that are in place to protect all North Carolinians. The Mayor, Town Council, and staff look forward to the next phases of safely reopening our home.”
Outline for opening back up
On Saturday (May 2), Weaverville Manager Coffey issued a press release on how businesses in the town should prepare to reopen. In the email to which the press release was attached, Coffey stated, “Please find a guidance document for your use in preparing to reopen your businesses located within Weaverville Town limits. Please reach out to me if you have questions and/or if I can provide additional clarifications. The Mayor and Town Council, as well as staff, are doing everything we can to assist you and re-opening your businesses safely and re-energizing our community.”
“The Governor’s rules are quite like the ones we have been living under for the past month,” said the press release. “Until we enter Phase I, we won’t see a whole lot of change, but there are a few to highlight:
“Businesses that can meet Social Distancing Requirements can open now. However, this requires strict compliance with keeping all persons six feet apart except at the point of payment, washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds as frequently as possible or using hand sanitizer, regularly cleaning high-touch surfaces, and promoting on-line or remote access if practical. To facilitate this, you must mark six feet in spacing if you anticipate a line at a cash register or outside your establishment, and limit the number of customers in your establishment to 20 percent of your stated fire capacity, or five customers per 1,000 square feet of your total square footage. If you cannot accomplish this, you would need to wait for the upcoming phases of reopening throughout May and June.
Gatherings of up to only ten persons are allowed in a single room or single space at the same time, such as an auditorium, stadium, arena, large conference room, meeting hall, or any other confined indoor or outdoor space. In addition, funerals are permitted to include no more than fifty persons, while observing Social Distancing Requirements to the extent practicable.
“Persons entering Weaverville from outside North Carolina are not required to self-isolate for 14 days.
“There will be a lot of questions in the days ahead and we will be happy to help as best we can. Remember, however, that when in doubt, please opt for the safe path of staying home as much as possible and maintaining distance when in public. You can call Town Hall during office hours at 645-7116 or use our contact form at https://weavervillenc.org/contact-us”
One Weaverville business that has felt the full effect of the rules is Blue Mountain Pizza. The popular restaurant has been a mainstay in the community which has hosted monthly charity drives. Owner Matt Danford was asked about the outline for reopening said he had seen the release from the town.
“We have made a decision to reopen on May 19 with a limited menu for pickup only and then gradually ease into things over a period of time. First offering a full menu for pickup, gradually getting back into delivery and seeing how the atmosphere is before even thinking about opening the dining room,” he said. “I think opening is going to be a real challenge and always want to keep our staff and customers’ health at the forefront. Personally I cannot see things returning to normal for quite some time.”