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BOONE — Boone Town Manager John Ward and Mayor Rennie Brantz on Tuesday, March 24, provided an update on town operations affected by COVID-19.

PreparationsWatauga County, AppHealthCare, the town of Boone and neighboring jurisdictions have been preparing for emerging infectious diseases for many years.

“While COVID-19 is a new virus, the coordination, communication efforts and infrastructure around our public health preparedness is in place,” the statement said. “All partners are supporting and coordinating with App HealthCare as they take the lead for our community on our response efforts.”

To date, there have been three confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the county. App HealthCare is receiving regular updates from N.C. Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on this rapidly evolving situation. AppHealthCare is in regular contact with key town officials and the Appalachian Regional Healthcare System to discuss status reports, directives and messaging for the community.

In addition, Ward is participating in daily conference calls hosted by AppHealthCare, which offer updates and guidance for county school officials, municipalities and other stakeholders in the community.

“Response efforts are evaluating changes to date, available resources and adjustments that may be needed moving forward are underway. Preparation, implementation and continued modifications will be necessary as we adjust to changing conditions,” the statement said. “While we should all hope for the best, town of Boone staff are hard at work preparing for the unknown future.”

Town operations

In accordance with direction from Gov. Roy Cooper and state officials, the town of Boone has made several changes to town programs, activities and access to municipal buildings in an effort to keep residents and employees healthy and safe.

The Police Department and the Fire Department will continue to respond to emergency calls for service. If you have an emergency, dial 911 and officers will respond as always. For non-emergency police calls, dial 828-268-6900.

Town Hall will be closed to public access until further notice. Town Hall staff will continue to work and will be available to respond to any questions and provide services by email and phone by calling 828-268-6200. Our administrative staff is answering calls and offering assistance during normal business hours, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Community links to updated information and contacts can be obtained on at www.townofboone.net. A locked drop-box is also located on the side of Town Hall where utility payments and other Town Hall correspondence may be dropped off. This box is checked regularly each business day.

Planning and Inspections staff will continue to work and provide service via phone calls, emails and appointments as needed. To contact them, call 828-268-6960.

The Water Treatment Plant and Waste Water Treatment Plant will continue operations as normal. Staffing has been adjusted to ensure proper safety measures. The Public Works Streets Division is working on rotating schedules and staff are present for issues and repairs that arise. Staff are available to respond to questions and provide service by email and phone by calling 828-268-4560.

The Cultural Resources Department and the Jones House are closed until further notice. All events scheduled at the Daniel Boone Park and Native Gardens are canceled, but the grounds are open to the public, as long as visitors follow all appropriate social distancing recommendations. Staff are available to respond to questions by email and can be reached at 828-268-6280.

The Boone Greenway remains open to the public, as long as visitors follow all appropriate social distancing recommendations.

Finance and Human Resources staff will continue to work and will be available to respond to questions and provide service by email and phone by calling 828-268-6200.

Residential trash pickup is on a normal schedule. In an effort to protect collection workers so they can continue this service, make sure to place all garbage in a garbage bag, which reduces workers’ potential for exposure. Republic Services can be reached at 828-264-3689.

Statewide information

Gov. Roy Cooper and state officials have issued orders for all communities in North Carolina that include:

  • Restricting all gatherings to 50 people or fewer
  • Temporarily eliminating all on-premises dining at bars, restaurants, cafes and other eating establishments and allowing take-out options ONLY (grocery stores are exempt from this order to allow people to purchase food and supplies)
  • Closing all public K-12 schools until May 15, 2020, unless extended
  • Closing all bowling alleys, indoor exercise facilities, indoor/outdoor pools, live performance venues, and movie theaters
  • Closing all barber shops, beauty salons, nail salons, massage facilities and tattoo parlors.

Precautions

People are encouraged to take common sense precautions to prevent the spread of all infectious diseases, including COVID-19:

  • Wash hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds at a time.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are ill.
  • If you are sick, stay home.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze.
  • Do not reuse tissue after coughing, sneezing or blowing your nose.
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces that are frequently touched.

Social distancing

Public health officials agree that social distancing — keeping people as physically separate as possible — can help slow the spread of COVID-19 and “flatten the curve” to limit the numbers of cases of infection on any given day, the town officials said. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has detailed recommendations to follow.

• Refrain from interacting with vulnerable groups or individuals — grandparents, chronically ill; immune compromised.

• In public, avoid touching things that have been touched by many others — doors knobs, push buttons, credit card machine buttons, etc. If you must use a high touch object, wash hands immediately.

• When in public spaces, stay at least 6 feet away from other people.

• Don’t go to necessary places like grocery stores during high peak hours; remain at least 6 feet away from others when shopping or in lines; use delivery services if possible.

• Opt for activities that allow you and family members to keep distances from others. For parents, this means not allowing playdates; not allowing students who are out of school to congregate together in large groups, both inside homes and outside.

• Stay at home as much as possible. Businesses and employers are encouraging people to work from home. Look for ways to stay in contact with others by phone, social media, online meeting platforms and other remote technology.

• Please continue to be vigilant in following the restrictions in place; remind children, teens and young adults to adhere to these restrictions; and check on neighbors and those who may be frail, vulnerable, lonely or feel isolated.

MORE INFORMATION

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Help and information regarding the novel coronavirus is also available by calling North Carolina 2-1-1.

AppHealthCare is available 24/7 to respond to public health emergencies. To reach them, call 828-264-4995 anytime and follow the prompts.

Moving forward

“Each day we are faced with new challenges when dealing with the response to COVID-19 in our community,” the statement said. “Uncertainty, fear and frustration are all normal feelings that come into play when our lives, work and schools have been disrupted. Now is the time to follow precautions and social distancing guidance more than ever to help those on the front lines providing vital community services so that their efforts are supported by all those who they are working to protect.”

“The town of Boone will continue to focus on the health, safety and welfare of our citizens, employees and visitors. We are working hard to make sure that all town of Boone services continue without disruption. Our staff are dedicated to their jobs, they care about what you are going through, and they are working every day to help everyone they can during this challenging time.”

“We greatly appreciate all of the individuals, community groups and organizations who have provided much-needed assistance throughout the community,” the town said. “Now and in the future, it will be more important than ever to focus our support on those businesses that have been closed in an effort to stop the spread of this virus. Down the road when the current restrictions are lifted, we must help our local business owners rebuild and reopen so that Boone can come back stronger than ever. Buy Local – Buy Boone!”

“In the meantime, you can play a vital role in the greater community effort. Please stay home as much as possible to protect the most vulnerable in our community. Please call, email, or text a friend, co-worker or neighbor to check to see if they are okay. COVID-19 is impacting us individually, as a community, as a state and as a nation. Our collective strength and community spirit will be key to defeating this virus, protecting our community and supporting each other.”

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