Gaston County issues “stay at home” order to fight the spread of COVID-19

Updated: Mar. 26, 2020 at 10:26 PM EDT
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GASTON COUNTY, N.C. (WBTV) - Gaston County leaders have issued a “stay at home” order as the county fights to curb the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

The order will went into effect Friday, March 27 at 5 p.m. Officials say the decision came after the county received word from CaroMont Health that the hospital had identified the first case of community spread.

“We have experienced signs of community spread,” Chairman Tracy Philbeck said. “It is clear to me that we have to be swift and act as local government to do what we can do to make sure that this virus does not spread beyond what is manageable.”

The order reduces the size of gatherings from no more than 50 to no more than 10.

DOCUMENT: Click or to read the full Gaston County order

According to health officials, Gaston County currently had 11 confirmed coronavirus cases as of Thursday afternoon, more than double the five reported cases confirmed on Wednesday.

Gaston County officials are creating a “Stay at Home Community Hotline” at 704-866-3170 for anyone who has questions about order. That hotline will be available Friday at 8 a.m.

The order states, in part:

  • Non-essential business and County Government operations must cease
  • All public and private gatherings of more than 10 people are prohibited
  • All places of public amusment ordered closed
  • Nursing home, long-term care and assisted living facility visits vastly restricted
  • All non-essential travel is prohibited
  • Leaving home for essential activities is permitted

Essential businesses and operations are listed as:

  • Stores that sell groceries and medicine
  • Food, beverage, and agriculture
  • Organizations that provide charitable and social services
  • Media
  • Gas station and businesses needed for transportation
  • Financial institutions
  • Hardware and supply stores
  • Critical trades
  • Mail, post, shipping, logisitics, delivery, and pick-up services
  • Educational institutions
  • Laundry services
  • Restaurants for consumption off-premises
  • Supplies to work from home
  • Supplies for essential businesses and operations
  • Transportation
  • Home-based care and services
  • Residential facilities and shelters
  • Professional services
  • Childcare centers
  • Manufacture, distribution, and supply chain companies
  • Hotels and motels
  • Funeral services

County leaders say the goal is “self-policing,” asking the community to “do the right things” to follow the order. However, officials say there is an “enforcement statute” as part of the order if needed.

On Thursday, Gaston County officials called a press conference to discuss next steps in their response to the pandemic.

Gaston County officials say they had been in close communication with its partners at CaroMont Health about its patient load respective and possibility of a “stay at home” order due to virus.

Gaston County Manager Dr. Kim Eagle previously said the county was prepared to act if the situation on the ground changed.

“We want to do everything we can to protect people’s jobs, while making sure we do not put our healthcare providers at undue risk,” she said. “We have tremendous relationships here in Gaston County that allow us to work closely together to make sure we are making the right decisions for all of our citizens.”

Non-essential employees will be paid through administrative leave for up to 7 weeks.

“We should be calm,” Philbeck said. “We should be smart, and we should consider others at this time.”

Just an hour after Governor Roy Cooper ordered a statewide Stay At Home decree beginning Monday, Gaston County’s own order took effect.

Starting at 5p.m. all non-essential businesses were to close.

Grocery stores, pharmacies, take out restaurants and more will remain available. Even parks will stay open, though the facilities in them will not.

Officials are urging people to do as little traveling from home as possible and if you do, to be aware of your surroundings and practice social distancing.

“Be careful what you touch,” said County Manager Kim Eagle. She says anyone with questions should check the county website for details of the order.

It was set to expire on April 16th but with the state order in place now as well, people in Gaston County will remain in a Stay At Home order for at least 30 days from this coming Monday.

The county becomes the latest in the WBTV viewing area to issue a “stay at home” order or proclamation, joining Mecklenburg County and Cabarrus County.

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