By Beth Lawrence

At its regular meeting Tuesday, the Jackson County Board of Commissioners decided to repeal the COVID-19 emergency declaration issued in March.

The county will draft a new emergency proclamation mirroring Gov. Roy Cooper’s phase I recommendations for opening the state, which begin Friday. The new proclamation will contain “strong suggestions” for residents and visitors conduct to moderate spread of the novel coronavirus which causes COVID-19.

“We did some things early on before the state took action that I think were critical to take care of because of the environment and the way that we have folks coming here because it’s a tourist area,” Board Chair Brian McMahan said.

A new emergency declaration would allow the emergency operations center to remain open and allow the health department to continue tracking numbers and performing contact tracing for confirmed cases.

Board members felt comfortable rescinding travel restrictions and a 30-day minimum on rental properties.

Commissioner Gayle Woody expressed concern about making sure that smaller rental properties were able to take the same cleaning precautions that larger hotel chains could afford to perform.

The county’s new proclamation will be issued and take effect Friday. 

The board agreed that if the declaration were repealed and case numbers jumped, tighter restrictions may be reinstituted.

Phase 1

The first step in Cooper’s re-opening plan would modify the state Stay At Home order, allowing many businesses not currently defined as essential to open.

It would allow people to leave home for commercial activity at any business that is allowed to be open, such as clothing stores, sporting goods stores, book shops, houseware stores and other retailers.

It will continue to limit gatherings to no more than 10 people. Parks will re-open, and outdoor exercise encouraged.

Face masks and teleworking would be recommended. Restrictions on nursing homes and other congregate care settings will stay in place.

Local emergency orders with more restrictive measures may remain in place.