Business owner says NC 'Phase 2.5' long overdue in coronavirus response

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  • September 1, 2020
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Several business owners in Western North Carolina said they were relieved when they heard Gov. Roy Cooper would ease COVID-19 business restrictions and wade into the so-called “Phase 2.5″ of the state’s recovery plan. Phase 2.5, announced Tuesday and taking effect Friday, limits mass gatherings to 25 people indoors and 50 people outdoors, opens playgrounds, keeps capacity in gyms to 30% and museums and aquariums to 50%. Tangi Brown owns Flex Fitness and Recreation Center. Brown said the gym had to shut down in late March, but then she reopened in late May. Reopening defied the governor’s previous executive order, which shut down gyms during the coronavirus pandemic. Brown said the sheriff gave her permission to operate, however when WYFF News 4 contacted the Henderson County Sheriff’s Office, Maj. Frank Stout said the agency had not given specific information for anyone to open. However, Stout said the agency was not strictly enforcing the governor’s executive order, and any gyms open were expected to maintain social distancing and frequently sanitize surfaces. The old executive order called for certain medical exemptions, which Brown argued constituted regular time spent at the gym to stay healthy. Brown said Cooper’s order was long overdue, as it affected livelihoods for business owners struggling through the pandemic.“If we had to stay shut down until now, we would have never survived it,” Brown said. “Families are losing their businesses, just like my family could have lost this business. It’s sad, because a lot of people work really hard to have what they have and it’s their life and their life is gone. They’ve lost that.”The new executive order also requires people at least five years old to wear a mask when social distancing is not possible. Salon capacity remains the same under “Phase 2.5″ as well. Bars, nightclubs, movie theaters, indoor entertainment and amusement parks will stay closed, and a 11 p.m. curfew on alcohol will stay in place through Oct. 2.Cooper said the COVID-19 numbers were stable and some are declining, which led to him deciding to spur the economy and encourage exercise by opening more businesses. “This is a dimmer switch, a careful step we’re making,” Cooper said. Meanwhile, Henderson County tourism director Beth Carden said the area was able to sustain the hard hit tourism industry during the pandemic by creatively keeping businesses open and events safely functioning. While numbers were down in March and April, she said, by Memorial Day and the summer, business had bounced back thanks to the agritourism industry and a constant effort to market when other cities stopped trying to draw visitors to town.“Our county has been very proactive about having our businesses do the same,” Carden said. “I think they were encouraged to come up with protocols, promote those protocols to prevent business from just totally shutting down. It’s not really essential, so we really have to make people understand the need for tourism as part of their mental and physical well being.”Carden said with the state theater and museums closed this year, along with canceled downtown concerts serving as big attractions and draws, the county still managed to post an occupancy rate about 8% lower than a record 2019. She expects the governor’s easing of restrictions will promote further economic growth.“It’s going to boost our economy tremendously,” Carden said. “The ability to have more people coming into our stores and restaurants will certainly help our business boost back up to where it was.”

Several business owners in Western North Carolina said they were relieved when they heard Gov. Roy Cooper would ease COVID-19 business restrictions and wade into the so-called “Phase 2.5” of the state’s recovery plan.

Phase 2.5, announced Tuesday and taking effect Friday, limits mass gatherings to 25 people indoors and 50 people outdoors, opens playgrounds, keeps capacity in gyms to 30% and museums and aquariums to 50%.

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Tangi Brown owns Flex Fitness and Recreation Center. Brown said the gym had to shut down in late March, but then she reopened in late May. Reopening defied the governor’s previous executive order, which shut down gyms during the coronavirus pandemic.

Brown said the sheriff gave her permission to operate, however when WYFF News 4 contacted the Henderson County Sheriff’s Office, Maj. Frank Stout said the agency had not given specific information for anyone to open. However, Stout said the agency was not strictly enforcing the governor’s executive order, and any gyms open were expected to maintain social distancing and frequently sanitize surfaces.

The old executive order called for certain medical exemptions, which Brown argued constituted regular time spent at the gym to stay healthy. Brown said Cooper’s order was long overdue, as it affected livelihoods for business owners struggling through the pandemic.

“If we had to stay shut down until now, we would have never survived it,” Brown said. “Families are losing their businesses, just like my family could have lost this business. It’s sad, because a lot of people work really hard to have what they have and it’s their life and their life is gone. They’ve lost that.”

The new executive order also requires people at least five years old to wear a mask when social distancing is not possible. Salon capacity remains the same under “Phase 2.5” as well. Bars, nightclubs, movie theaters, indoor entertainment and amusement parks will stay closed, and a 11 p.m. curfew on alcohol will stay in place through Oct. 2.

Cooper said the COVID-19 numbers were stable and some are declining, which led to him deciding to spur the economy and encourage exercise by opening more businesses.

“This is a dimmer switch, a careful step we’re making,” Cooper said.

Meanwhile, Henderson County tourism director Beth Carden said the area was able to sustain the hard hit tourism industry during the pandemic by creatively keeping businesses open and events safely functioning. While numbers were down in March and April, she said, by Memorial Day and the summer, business had bounced back thanks to the agritourism industry and a constant effort to market when other cities stopped trying to draw visitors to town.

“Our county has been very proactive about having our businesses do the same,” Carden said. “I think they were encouraged to come up with protocols, promote those protocols to prevent business from just totally shutting down. It’s not really essential, so we really have to make people understand the need for tourism as part of their mental and physical well being.”

Carden said with the state theater and museums closed this year, along with canceled downtown concerts serving as big attractions and draws, the county still managed to post an occupancy rate about 8% lower than a record 2019. She expects the governor’s easing of restrictions will promote further economic growth.

“It’s going to boost our economy tremendously,” Carden said. “The ability to have more people coming into our stores and restaurants will certainly help our business boost back up to where it was.”

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