Avery County manager: Mask mandate is ‘only defense right now’ in fighting coronavirus

Avery County listed as critical county for virus spread

NEWLAND, N.C. (WBTV) - Avery County Manager Phillip Barrier says people need to work together and fight the coronavirus and that mask wearing is “the only defense right now that we know of.”

Avery County has 139 active cases at this time. Governor Cooper has issued a mandate that toughens the rules for mask wearing, and in Avery County, community spread has put them in the red category.

Officials say they will push harder for people to follow the rules.

Sheriff Kevin Frye has told his deputies to be on the lookout for violations but has not told them to arrest anyone. Instead, anyone caught without a mask on will be “strongly encouraged to wear one.”

Law enforcement may step in, however, if a customer in a store does not follow instructions and is told to leave by the store’s manager and refuses.

In that case, it could be considered trespassing and Frye says, if need be, his deputies will make an arrest. Officials hope it doesn’t come to that.

In the meantime, testing is being ramped up.

The Health Department was being inundated said Barrier, so a request was forwarded to the state asking for help.

On Tuesday morning, a FedEx truck loaded with supplies arrived.

The state plans to have a testing site in operation beginning Wednesday. Appointments will be required.

Testing will take place on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays for the foreseeable future.

Copyright 2020 WBTV. All rights reserved.