WATAUGA — Watauga County — in conjunction with the towns of Beech Mountain, Blowing Rock, Boone and Seven Devils — will be ending short-term rentals, effective noon on March 26.

AppHealthCare released the announcement that day, stating that the decision is a preventive measure to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus and lessen its impact on the community. The agency stated that the county is taking precautions to ensure the health and safety of its residents during the rapidly changing situation.

“We appreciate the solidarity between our municipalities and Watauga County to continue working together as we respond to this public health emergency,” said Watauga County Commission Chairman John Welch. “We carefully made this decision with public health in mind. We urge the public to please help us lessen the impact of COVID-19 here by staying home and practicing social distancing to the greatest extent possible.”

Watauga’s state of emergency will be updated to reflect this change. This mandate prohibits all short-term rentals for property within Watauga County for the duration of the county’s state of emergency unless otherwise deemed allowable, at which time an amendment will be issued.

Short-term rentals include, but are not be limited to, air bed and breakfasts, campgrounds, timeshare units, condos, motels, resorts, inns, guest houses, RV Parks, vacation cabins, home rentals, VRBO, hotels or other rental programs or places where leases for less than 30 days in duration.

The following are exceptions to the set forth short-term rental policy:

  • Persons currently subject to a written rental agreement shall be able to remain for the rental period and shall be able to extend said period with no time limitation provided it is continuous.
  • The prohibition against short-term rentals shall not apply when work related accommodations are needed for the following:
  • Emergency personnel such as law enforcement, EMTs, fire and rescue, 911 communications and emergency management
  • Federal, state and local government personnel
  • Medical and public health personnel
  • Any person, contractor or service provider deemed necessary by the county manager to the response and recovery for COVID-19
  • Construction workers
  • Homeless shelters
  • Emergency facilities as determined by the county manager
  • Any housing arrangements within facilities owned and operated by Appalachian State University

The 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 and go into effect Thursday, March 26.

People who are at high risk for COVID-19 should stay home to the greatest extent possible to decrease the chance of infection.

“Please, help us protect the most vulnerable,” said Jennifer Greene, the AppHealthCare health director. “We need you to stay home as much as possible and limit your trips to essential needs like the grocery store, pharmacy or to pick up your necessities through a local business or to participate in the Watauga County Schools meal program.”

Who is at high risk for COVID-19?

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 with a body mass index of 40 or higher
  • Other underlying medical conditions — particularly if not well controlled — such as diabetes, renal failure or liver disease

AppHealthCare is available and on-call 24/7 to respond to public health emergencies. To contact AppHealthCare staff, call (828) 264-4995. For more information, visit www.AppHealthCare.com or follow the agency on Facebook or Twitter.

For more information on COVID-19 (novel coronavirus), visit the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention website 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.”

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