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Buncombe County Will Follow State For 'Phase 1'

Matt Bush
Blue Ridge Public Radio

Buncombe County has modified its local ‘stay home stay safe’ order so that it aligns with the new statewide order in North Carolina that allows many retail businesses to reopen Friday at 5 p.m.  

County board chair Brownie Newman signed the modified order at a Thursday afternoon press briefing.  Under 'Phase 1' of the reopening of North Carolina as previously outlined by Governor Roy Cooper, many retail businesses can reopen but only at 50-percent capacity to ensure that customers can follow proper social distancing.  Restaurants must remain closed except for takeout and delivery service.  Bars, theaters, performance venues will also remain closed.  Salons, barbershops, and other personal care outlets must also stay shuttered.  "Basically, if your service delivery requires you to be in close contact with someone, you must remain closed," county emergency preparedness coordinator Fletcher Tove said.

The lone difference between the local and state order is that Buncombe County will keep lodging restrictions in place to stop ‘leisure tourism.’  Newman said given how popular Asheville is as a tourist destination, coupled with the fact other states have had bigger outbreaks including those that neighbor Western North Carolina on three sides, led them to keep the lodging restrictions in place.  "Hotels, inns, and short-term rentals in the county will only be open to residents of Western North Carolina, employees that are working for an essential business, or in other specific situations where a hotel operator is partnering with local government on quarantine efforts," Newman said at Thursday's press briefing. 

The county also lifted stricter limits on funerals, and now up to 50 people will be able attend a funeral.  Phase 1 will last a minimum of two weeks according to Governor Cooper.  Newman said the town of Weaverville will follow the county’s new order after some disagreement earlier this week.

Matt Bush joined Blue Ridge Public Radio as news director in August 2016. Excited at the opportunity the build up the news service for both stations as well as help launch BPR News, Matt made the jump to Western North Carolina from Washington D.C. For the 8 years prior to coming to Asheville, he worked at the NPR member station in the nation's capital as a reporter and anchor. Matt primarily covered the state of Maryland, including 6 years of covering the statehouse in Annapolis. Prior to that, he worked at WMAL in Washington and Metro Networks in Pittsburgh, the city he was born and raised in.
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