BOONE — At 2 p.m. on June 2, emergency restrictions mandating one-way shopping aisles, mask wearing by employees in indoor establishments open to the public, daily screenings of employees for symptoms and other measures will take effect in the town of Boone.
The restrictions are the result of amendments to the town of Boone’s COVID-19 state of emergency declaration that were approved by the Boone Town Council on May 21. Although the council voted May 26 to remove a restriction that would have barred anyone who had overnighted outside of Watauga County from entering indoor establishments in Boone until they had stayed in the county for an uninterrupted 14-day period, the other restrictions remained in place, with a new effective date of June 2 set to give the town time to educate the public and businesses.
The restrictions include the following:
The amended declaration states that the town continues to apply the restrictions of Watauga County’s emergency declaration, which as of May 22, requires that all lodging, short-term rentals and other fee-based overnight accommodations for a period of less than 30 days shall operate at no more than 50 percent capacity.
All town meetings shall be held remotely, with the exception of the board of adjustment. The board of adjustment’s meetings are postponed for 60 days, and the council will consider how the board’s meetings will resume.
Social distancing of six feet between persons must be maintained in all establishments open to the public (except county and state offices), in all places of employment, and in public parks, sidewalks, streets and on town property, except between persons who are members of the same household.
An exception is made for personal care, grooming and tattoo businesses, provided that those employees must wear masks when social distancing cannot be maintained.
In retail businesses with shopping aisles, aisles shall be one-way if shoppers otherwise cannot maintain six-feet social distancing when walking the aisles in opposite directions.
To the extent reasonably available, hand sanitizer or other disinfectant shall be offered to customers of all establishments open to the public as customers enter and leave the premises.
In addition, employees of establishments open to the public must disinfect their hands between each interaction with a member of the public that involves exchange of a physical item that could enable surface-to-hand transmission of the coronavirus (e.g., check-out cashier handling customers’ goods, money or credit cards).
While indoors in areas open to the public or occupied by other employees, employees of establishments open to the public must wear masks or other face coverings that comply with current public health guidance (i.e., cover nose and mouth and go under chin); except that the face-covering requirement shall not apply to employees that cannot wear masks due to a medical or behavioral condition, or due to a safety concern.
Employees of personal care, grooming and tattoo businesses must wear masks when social distancing cannot be maintained.
Restaurants may use only disposable menus provided for one-time use or menus that are disinfected between each use.
Employees of establishments open to the public must be subject to a daily screening process — a questionnaire — before the employee begins work to check for COVID-19 symptoms. Employees should not be permitted to work if they display symptoms, and should not be allowed to return to work if they have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or are presumed positive by a medical professional due to symptoms until they meet the CDC criteria for release from isolation: (i) no fever for at least 72 hours since recovery (without the use of fever-reducing medicine); and (ii) other symptoms have improved (e.g., coughing, shortness of breadth); and (iii) at least 10 days have passed since first symptoms.
Violations of the declaration restrictions are first subject to a warning citation, but repeat violations or an “egregious first violation manifesting willful flouting or circumvention of this declaration” are punishable by a class 2 misdemeanor.
With the exception of the county-ordered restriction on short-term rentals, which is in effect until Phase 3 of the statewide reopening plan, the town’s restrictions are in effect “until further notice,” according to the declaration.
The restrictions — including the controversial self-isolation restriction — were initially passed by the council on May 21 by a 3-1 vote, with Councilpersons Sam Furgiuele, Dustin Hicks and Connie Ulmer for the motion and Nancy LaPlaca against. Councilperson Loretta Clawson was absent from the May 21 meeting.
But on May 22, Superior Court Judge Gregory Horne granted a request for a temporary restraining order precluding the town from enforcing the 14-day self-isolation restriction. The request was filed by Anne-Marie Yates, Mountain Resort Management LLC (dba Holiday Inn Express), Hospitality Group of Hickory and Smokey Mountain Hospitality LLC, who were represented by attorney Nathan Miller.
The council then voted 4-1 on May 26 to remove the self-isolation restriction, with Clawson, Hicks, LaPlaca and Ulmer in the majority, and Furgiuele against.
On May 27, Miller said that “given the town of Boone’s decision on Tuesday to strike the 14-day self-isolation requirement, the plaintiffs have instructed me to file a voluntary dismissal in the civil action.”
“The town’s reversal of the 14-day self isolation and conformity with other local governments was the goal of the plaintiffs, and that thankfully was achieved,” Miller said. “My clients look forward to working with the town council, the Boone Area Chamber of Commerce, their employees and customers in bringing Boone back to economic life.”