Officials in North Carolina’s Gaston County announced on Wednesday their intention to sign an order allowing businesses in the county to reopen, effective April 29 at 5:00 p.m., despite Gov. Roy Cooper’s (D) extended stay-at-home orders.
Commission Chairman Tracy Philbeck made the announcement Wednesday morning, stating that county leaders are “letting our folks know we support them going back to work.”
“We’re going to put our people to work and we’re going to do it in a health-minded way,” Philbeck said.
“We have learned that social distancing works. We’ve learned that with strict sanitation, strict hygiene, it works,” he continued, adding that county leaders believe Gaston County “can do both,” noting that the state’s one size fits all approach does not make sense, particularly for his county.
Per the Charlotte Observer:
The order says vulnerable people should continue to stay home. Other people should keep their distance from others, it says, and avoid gatherings of 10 or more where social distancing isn’t practical. Employers should continue to encourage telework.
Schools and youth activities that are now closed should stay closed, the order says, and bars remain closed. But the order allows theaters, restaurants, churches, sporting venues and gyms to operate with social distancing and elective surgeries to resume.
“If you don’t wanna open your business, you don’t have to,” Philbeck said. “We can protect the health of our citizens while at the same time putting our citizens back at work”:
I plan to sign an order today that reopens Gaston County in phases effective April 29th at 5:00 PM. Staying at home is not a solution. We can protect health and we can work at the same time.
Thank you pic.twitter.com/DU5hzDjEsc
— Tracy Philbeck (@tracyphilbeck) April 29, 2020
“Our goal was to make sure our hospital system was not overwhelmed,” Philbeck said in the release. “We’ve done that. Why punish us for being successful in flattening the curve when a strict Stay at Home order no longer makes sense for our county?”
The release continued:
We understand that what the Board supports is not in lock step with the Governor’s executive order, but we support putting our citizens back to work and allowing them to worship corporately, both of which are their constitutional rights. In fact, we are reminded by Article I, Section 13 of our North Carolina Constitution, that “all persons have a natural and inalienable right to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their own consciences, and no human authority shall, in any case whatever, control or interfere with the rights of conscience.” Worship – whether by oneself or corporately – is an inalienable right of the people.
Furthermore, it is no coincidence that our State’s founders listed the following atop all the rights guaranteed to North Carolinians in our Constitution’s Declaration of Rights: “We hold it to be self-evident that all persons are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, the enjoyment of the fruits of their own labor, and the pursuit of happiness.” Work – whether at home or at one’s business – is also an inalienable right of the people.
The Board makes this promise to its people and expects a promise in return – that the citizens of Gaston County exercise their rights responsibly and that they use common sense as it relates to their own health and safety. The Board also reminds citizens throughout Gaston County that large gatherings, banquets, and concerts continue to be restricted. The restrictions on long term care facilities and nursing homes are also very much in place. Businesses governed by licensing boards at the state level are encouraged to consult with their respective boards.
Cooper extended the state’s stay-at-home order until May 8, which critics say is unwarranted due to the data and differences from county to county.