BOONE — Watauga County, along with the towns of Beech Mountain, Blowing Rock, Boone and Seven Devils, announced that effective at 5 p.m. on March 31, "all residents and non-residents of Watauga County arriving for overnight stays are ordered, while present in the county, to self-quarantine for a period of 14 days or until seven days after symptoms have resolved, whichever is longer, if arrival was preceded by overnights outside the county."
The only exceptions to this provision are the commuting “essential” workforce and emergent response as coordinated through the Watauga County emergency services director, AppHealthCare director and/or sheriff and their designees, the county said.
The order is the latest amendment to the state of emergency declared by the county and towns on March 15. County Manager Deron Geouque said Watauga County Commissioners Chairman John Welch has been signing off on the state of emergency and additional orders in consultation with Geouque, under the authority of N.C. General Statutes § 166A-19.22.
In another order announced March 26, short-term rentals in the county have been suspended with some limited exceptions for specifically reducing the spread of the virus.
"We recognize the rights of residents and non-residents and yet, during this time of controlling the spread of a public health pandemic, it is critical that all people comply with public health guidance," the county said in a statement. "This additional measure is intended to reduce exposure to the entire community."
These new guidelines will be incorporated as part of the existing Watauga County state of emergency that is currently in effect through the course of this public health emergency, the county stated.
"While the governor has placed a statewide order that is in effect, this local order which is more restrictive must be followed," the county stated. "While we are hopeful that people will voluntarily comply, state and local law enforcement will be tasked with enforcement of this order ... (which) may result in a Class 2 misdemeanor.
“We understand that all non-permanent property owners have rights, and we are working hard to prevent further impacts of this pandemic in our community,” said Geouque.
“It is in the best interest of everyone to stay in their primary residence and avoid non-essential travel at this time, but if they are insistent, we are requiring this period of self-quarantine to protect our broader community,” said Jennifer Greene, AppHealthCare health director.
For more information about the order, visit www.WataugaCounty.org or call (828) 265-8000.
People at high risk include anyone who:
- Is 65 years of age or older
- Lives in a nursing home or long-term care facility
- Have a high-risk condition that includes: Chronic lung disease or moderate to severe asthma; Heart disease with complications; Compromised immune system; Severe obesity - body mass index (BMI) of 40 or higher; or Other underlying medical conditions, particularly if not well controlled, such as diabetes, renal failure or liver disease
People who are at high risk should stay home to the greatest extent possible to decrease the chance of infection, the department said.
AppHealthCare is available and on-call 24/7 to respond to public health emergencies. To reach them, call (828) 264-4995 anytime and follow the prompts. Visit www.AppHealthCare.com or follow them on Facebook and Twitter.
Questions from agencies requesting support on COVID-19 response, planning efforts, etc. can contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) has more information at cdc.gov/coronavirus. North Carolina resources can be found on the Division of Public Health website at ncdhhs.gov/coronavirus.
A COVID-19 toll free helpline has been set up to answer general, non-emergent questions at 1-866-462-3821. To submit questions online, go to www.ncpoisoncontrol.org and select “chat.”