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BOONE — Noting that they still want local businesses to be able to enforce the wearing of masks by patrons, the Boone Town Council unanimously voted May 18 to immediately “terminate” the previous town of Boone state of emergency orders regarding masks and social distancing.

The motion presented by Council Member Nancy LaPlaca removed the town’s SOE 20-05 that was passed on May 26, 2020, that stated: social distancing was required in all establishments open to the public, employees of establishments open to the public must wear masks, restaurants could only use disposable menus or menus disinfected between uses, employee of establishments open to the public were to be subjected to screenings each day they worked.

The town’s SOE 20-07, adopted on June 18, 2020, is also now terminated. SOE 20-07 stated that while indoors in any commercial business or town office, all occupants were required to wear masks and social distance 6 feet away from others.

The town council voted to decide about whether or not to resume in person meetings at a later time.

This follows the May 14 announcement by Gov. Roy Cooper that all mandatory capacity and gathering limits, social distancing requirements and most mandatory mask requirements would be lifted effective immediately. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released guidelines on May 13 stating that those who were fully vaccinated could resume activities without wearing a mask or staying 6 feet apart except where required by federal, state or local laws.

During the town council’s May 18 meeting, Town Manager John Ward said he recommended terminating the two town SEOs previously in place, and instructing staff to adhere to the current restrictions that are in place through Cooper’s executive orders.

Council Member Sam Furgiuele said he thought the CDC acted “precipitously.”

“I think they should have been a little more circumspect before they made the announcement they made because I think it has led to widespread confusion,” Furgiuele said. “I agree with those who think that things are not exactly completely safe, and that we may experience an increase because of their announcement. I think the governor may have acted a little too soon too; he acted very, very fast after the CDC made its announcement.”

Furgiuele said the problem is now with the latest CDC guidance, he didn’t think there would be a way to enforce any of the SOE orders the town had in place. He said people were already claiming medical reasons as to why they didn’t have to wear masks, and without “vaccine passports” or anything of the sort, there would be no way for police or others to know who is vaccinated and who is not.

“If we can’t enforce it, I don’t see any reasons to have it,” Furgiuele said.

Furgiuele added that in its first adoption, the town’s SEO stated that the orders would be in place until vaccines were widely available — which he believes they are now.

LaPlaca agreed with terminating the town’s orders as she was concerned that if they did not it would create confusion. Other town council members voiced support for allowing business owners to still require mask wearing or other previous restrictions within their business. Ward referenced a “no shoes, no shirt, no service” policy that businesses can enforce; a mask mandate inside a private business would be along the same lines, he said.

At the beginning of the meeting, Boone Saloon Owner Kelly DuPree asked the town council to remove the mask mandate because she felt as if it put she and her staff in danger.

“We’ve been threatened and we’ve had punches thrown at us,” DuPree said, “We’ve called the cops numerous times to support us in trying to make people wear their mask, and that was before last week when all the major players came out and said it’s OK to walk around without a mask.”

DuPree said Boone Saloon is not taking the COVID-19 pandemic lightly, and that employees who are not vaccinated are still asked to wear masks and other employees still want to wear masks. They just did not want to try to continue to enforce it.

Furgiuele ensured that the police would continue to assist property owners and businesses in removing a patron if the business has rules in place that the customer is violating. Boone Police Chief Andy Le Beau said if a person in control of a property wants a person removed, Boone Police can assist. He added that officers have responded to DuPree’s business and removed eight people the business did not want there in the last six weeks.

The town of Boone stated that it will be following Cooper’s guidelines released on May 14. This includes:

  • Requiring masks in areas where the majority of the population cannot be vaccinated (childcare, schools and camps).
  • Masks will be required for every citizen (vaccinated or non-vaccinated) in settings such as public transportation, health care settings like hospitals, doctor’s offices and long-term care settings like nursing homes and certain congregate settings like correctional facilities and homeless shelters.
  • Citizens who are not vaccinated should wear a mask and maintain distance in all indoor public settings and in outdoor settings when they cannot maintain six feet of distance.
  • Masks are strongly recommended for everyone at large crowded indoor events like sporting events and live performances.

For any additional questions, contact Ward at john.ward@townofboone.net or contact Boone Town Hall at (828) 268-6200.

During the Boone Town Council meeting, the Watauga County Board of Commissioners was simultaneously having its own regularly scheduled meeting.

The county’s state of emergency has been in-place since March 2020, and County Manager Deron Geouque asked the board if they were interested in lifting the order. The county state of emergency does not currently give explicit directives, rather it states the county will follow the restrictions that have been set by the governor.

“Our state of emergency, as it sits now, just lists the order of succession,” said Chairman John Welch. “If I get sick, if Vice Chair (Billy) Kennedy gets sick. That’s all it really entails.”

According to the declaration, if Welch was unable to fulfill his duties as chairman, Kennedy would act in his absence, with Geouque being Kennedy’s backup.

The board opted to hold off on any decision of canceling or changing the order, choosing to remain cautious in case of a spike in case numbers or updates in the pandemic as a whole. The board decided it will revisit the matter at their its meeting on Tuesday, June 1.

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