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Gaston County declares State of Emergency

Gaston County Board of Commissioners Chairman Tracy Philbeck declared a State of Emergency on Sunday, March 15.

That declaration includes a mandatory restriction on gatherings of greater than 50 people.

County leaders on Thursday, March 12, announced they were strongly urging residents to avoid such gatherings as a means of social distancing measures recommended by health experts to slow the spread of COVID-19.

While the county does not have a presumptive or confirmed case of coronavirus yet, health officials and health care providers are already operating as if the virus is present in the community.

“We recognize we’re asking a lot from our residents,” Board Chairman Tracy Philbeck said. “But we simply cannot risk overrunning our health system if we do not take these precautions now. The short-term inconvenience is worth it if it means we can save lives and lessen this spread of this virus.”

Leaders discussed in detail what the mandatory restriction would mean, and carved out exemptions for schools and licensed businesses. The county strongly recommends, however, that those entities do what they can to minimize person-to-person contact; utilize teleworking and split shifts; and be cognizant of the needs of those who are immunocompromised or elderly, as those population groups are particularly affected.

On Sunday, County leaders held a press conference that included remarks from Chairman Philbeck, Rep. John Torbett (R-Gaston County), CaroMont Health Chief Medical Officer Dr. Todd Davis, Gaston County Schools Superintendent Dr. Jeffrey Booker, Gaston County Police Chief Joseph Ramey, District 27A Chief District Court Judge John Greenlee and Department of Health and Human Services Director Chris Dobbins.

Ramey emphasized that in working with police departments from across the county, the goal is to get residents to voluntarily follow the temporary order.

Booker said that while the schools are closed for the next two weeks because of Gov. Roy Cooper’s order on Saturday, the district is already looking at implementing its summer feeding program beginning on Tuesday.

He emphasized that the situation is rapidly evolving, and noted the best place for parents and staff to go for up-to-date information on school district plans is their website, Gaston.k12.nc.us.

Judge Greenlee also noted the historic nature of the

See EMERGENCY, Page 9