Both the Qualla Boundary and Graham County have put in place restricted travel for non-residents. Residents in another rural county are calling for similar measures.
On Monday, Whittier resident Kellie Marr started a 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.