BOONE — Watauga County leaders said April 24 that local orders banning short-term rentals and requiring 14-day quarantines for anyone arriving from an overnight stay elsewhere will remain in effect until the governor lifts the statewide stay-at-home-order.
“We have been able to keep our count low due in large part to the citizens of Watauga County who have followed the stay-at-home order, other directives and prevention measures to slow the spread of COVID-19 in our community,” said Jennifer Greene, health director of AppHealthCare, the regional health department, in a statement. “Each of us, together, have been able to flatten the curve, and we should all be proud of our work. However, our work is not done.”
Gov. Roy Cooper announced on April 23 that he was extending the stay-at-home order, which was set to expire at the end of the month, until at least May 8. The order mandates that North Carolina residents stay at home except to go out for an essential job, food, medicine, outdoor exercise or to help someone.
Watauga County has enacted additional restrictions by way of its declaration of emergency, including the prohibition of all lodging, short-term rentals and other fee-based overnight accommodations for a period of less than 30 days. The county has worked closely with the four municipalities in the county, which have been including the same restrictions in their own emergency declarations.
“We know how important tourism is to our beautiful county, and we realize this places a burden on the hotels and short-term rental sector of our economy,” the county stated. “We also realize we must continue to take actions to protect the health and safety of our community from this virus.”
The county has also ordered that all residents and non-residents of Watauga County arriving for overnight stays are ordered to self-quarantine for a period of 14 days or seven days after symptoms have resolved, whichever is longer, if arrival was preceded by an overnight stay outside the county.
“This means all non-essential residents must bring medical and grocery supplies with them upon arrival,” the county statement said. “Even if you are only checking on your home for only a few days, you are ordered to self-quarantine for the days you are here. After 14 days of no symptoms, you can then use the essential businesses that are open per the governor’s order. Social distancing and wearing a face covering in public should be followed after the 14 days.”
Watauga County playgrounds, recreational courts and picnic shelters are closed until further notice.
“We appreciate the sacrifices each Watauga County citizen has made during this difficult time, County Manager Deron Geouque said in the statement. “The ban of short-term rentals and seasonal homeowners and visitors following the county’s 14-day quarantine guidance has worked.”
Eight county residents and one traveler in the county have tested positive for the virus in Watauga, according to AppHealthCare. The most recent confirmed case was announced on April 13 and was said to be a county resident who was isolating outside of the state. AppHealthCare spokesperson Melissa Bracey said that as of April 22, the department was not aware that any of those patients were severely ill, and none have required hospitalization.
For more information, visit WataugaCounty.org or call (828) 265-8000.
Watauga County’s announcement comes as at least one local government in the High Country and neighboring states have been signaling their intentions to begin lifting restrictions.
The Village of Sugar Mountain, led by Mayor Gunther Jochl, the owner of Sugar Mountain Resort, on April 24 announced it would allow the municipality’s restrictions on short-term rentals and the quarantine of visitors staying overnight in the area to expire after April 29. However, three days later, the municipality announced it would extend those restrictions to May 8.
Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee recently announced that his state’s stay-at-home order would not be extended beyond April 30.
How to Protect Yourself & Others
- Practice social distancing: avoiding gatherings, keep 6 feet or more away from others and remain at home as much as possible.
- Frequent hand washing for 20 seconds.
- Stay home when you’re sick.
- Keep distance from others who are sick.
- Avoid touching your face.
- Clean and disinfect high touch surfaces in common areas like doorknobs, remotes, light switches, tables and handles.
- People at high risk should stay home to the greatest extent possible.
- Wear cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.
People at high risk include anyone who:
- Is 65 years of age or older
- Lives in a nursing home or long-term care facility
- Has 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
If You Are Sick
- Symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, cough and shortness of breath.
- If you become ill, call your health care provider or call AppHealthCare to speak with a public health staff member before going to your provider or the emergency room.
- N.C. DHHS currently recommends that “most people do not need testing for COVID-19. If you are sick and unsure if you should get tested, please call your health care provider.”
- Centers for Disease Control: www.cdc.gov/coronavirus
- NCDHHS: ncdhhs.gov/coronavirus
- AppHealthCare: www.apphealthcare.com or call (828) 264-4995 or the COVID-19 hotline at (828) 795-1970
- Appalachian Regional Healthcare System: apprhs.org/COVID19
- Toll-free hotline for non-emergency questions: 1-866-462-3821 or visit www.ncpoisoncontrol.org and select “chat.”