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Swain County Residents Petition To Close County Borders To Stop COVID-19 Spread

Lilly Knoepp
Bryson City is the county seat of Swain County.

  Both the Qualla Boundary and Graham County have put in place restricted travel for non-residents.  Residents in another rural countyare calling for similar measures. 

On Monday, Whittier resident Kellie Marr starteda petition to ask Swain County commissioners to shut the county’s borders. The petition has already garnered almost 700 signatures. 

“Every case around us has been from a different state. It’s like we’re standing at our exits with open arms saying, ‘Welcome Corona,’” says Marr. 

Marr works in Bryson City. She says she hasn’t seen a huge increase in out-of-town visitors but now their impact is much larger than before. 

“What did you bring with you? You brought your luggage.  Did you also bring the virus?’,” says Marr. Her father owns R&G Maytag Repair and UHaul Rental and she says she’s been recently laid off  as the secretary because of the virus. 

Marr says she’s happy that Swain County Commissioners passed a measure on Monday to close lodging accommodations. She hopes commissioners will act fast to pass any additional measures that can help.

“I mean, I’m not sure if shutting the borders is the best answer. I’ve had so many opinions come at me just in the last 24 hours,” says Marr. 

Ben Bushyhead, chair of the Swain County Commissioners, says they are looking into how to best use their resources. He has this message for people planning to visit the county:


“The main thing that people need to know is that the air in the mountains is not the secret panacea to the coronavirus,” says Bushyhead. 

Swain County Commissioners will meet on Friday to discuss additional measures. The call for “border closures” similarly echoes across Western North Carolina. 

Limiting access to an “emergency area” is within the powers of a state of emergency declaration,according to the UNC School of Government.

Lilly Knoepp serves as BPR’s first fulltime reporter covering Western North Carolina. She is a native of Franklin, NC who returns to WNC after serving as the assistant editor of Women@Forbes and digital producer of the Forbes podcast network. She holds a master’s degree in international journalism from the City University of New York and earned a double major from UNC-Chapel Hill in religious studies and political science.
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