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Amid Budget Concerns, Graham County Reopens Roads Despite COVID-19

Lilly Knoepp
One of the checkpoints was located on Topoca Road near the Cheoah River.

This week, Graham County removed all barriers into the county. In March, the county essentially closed its borders to visitors as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Local government officials cited the lack of a hospital in the county as a main reason to restrict movement.

Graham County Manager Becky Garland explained that the county had to establish more manned checkpoints and barriers than originally thought necessary. 

“It brought us to the point where we had to say, ‘Let’s stop and regroup here,'” says Garland. 

At first, the county planned to have just three checkpoints and two hard closures but after input from North Carolina Department of Transportation and 'leakage points' that changed to five checkpoints and two hard closures. 

This cost the county an average of $92,000 per week, according to Garland. Commissioners voted to lift the closures at a meeting on Friday evening.

Credit Courtesy of Graham County Government
On Monday, April 20, the county reopened barriers that blocked non-residents from entering. This was part of a plan to stop the spread of COVID-19.

“The board had to weigh out the effectiveness of the checkpoints keeping the virus out verus what the taxpayers can sustain,” says Garland. 

There still are no cases of COVID-19 in the county.

Graham County Health Director Beth Booth released a statement thanking residents for their commitment to COVID-19 prevention. 

“In the days ahead, I would like to see that continued dedication to prevention,” says Booth in a press release. “ I would love to see us continue to stand strong against the spread of the virus. While we will likely see cases in the future, it is vitally important to prevent community spread.”

Graham County residents are still under stay-at-home orders and there is a 10 p.m. curfew.

All non-residents entering the county will be asked to observe a 14-day self-quarantine and bring in their own supplies.


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.