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Gaston County Commissioner Says Nonessential Businesses Should Reopen, Follow Social Distancing

In Gaston County, the policy lists the type of personnel action, up to dismissal, that an employee making unauthorized purchases might face.
Wikimedia Commons
In Gaston County, the policy lists the type of personnel action, up to dismissal, that an employee making unauthorized purchases might face.

Gaston County Commissioner Chad Brown, who also serves on the county board’s of health, says he agrees with the opening of nonessential businesses. However, law enforcement will take action if they don’t follow social distancing.

Chad Brown: We are still promoting social distancing. We believe that, yes, the county itself has done a great job to help flatten the curve. Obviously, it's still going on. It's still a pandemic. But we have people who are also suffering cause they can't open their businesses. We're still trying to work on making sure that we do all those things and those procedures of social distancing and making sure that some of the businesses sanitize as well.

Nick de la Canal: OK. Now, the governor’s stay-at-home for the state of North Carolina remains in effect through May 8. Your colleague, Tracy Philbeck, who's also chair of the Gaston County Commission, says the county is not going to be enforcing that order as long as businesses are using social distancing guidelines. Are you confident that the county has the power to not enforce the governor's orders? And what guidelines should Gaston County businesses be following right now? 

Brown: Well, I think you look at what the governor has done has been selective. We've had people in Gaston County to go to NCDOR, one being a salon and was deemed that it could open. One being a gym, they said could open.

De la Canal: As an essential business?

Brown: So when you see these three selective businesses open from the governor's office, how are we wrong by just saying, "Hey, if he's allowing these type of issues to open, we're going to do what we can to help?" We want our people to go and apply for it.

De la Canal: Yeah, well, why not allow the governor to make that call to declare individual businesses essential or not? Why take that into your own hands? 

Brown: Well, the governor is making a political statement out of it. He’s doing things for his special interest. Special interest can’t always be deemed political in nature. We're going off of data. You think about it. The reason that the stay-at-home order was put in place was not because the pandemic had overrun anything, it was to make sure that our hospitals and health care facilities were not put in a state of emergency themselves that we could not handle or be overrun. Today, no hospital in North Carolina has been put in that situation. 

De la Canal: The governor has been relying mostly on local law enforcement to carry out this statewide stay-at-home order, to enforce it. Will there be any kind of enforcement of social distancing in Gaston County moving forward? 

Brown: Gaston County is still under the social distancing order. The police and all the law enforcement in Gaston County are aware of the order that has been in place by the governor. And we will practice social distancing in Gaston County.

De la Canal: And I just want to make sure that I'm understanding this. You're saying that Gaston County is still under the statewide stay-at-home order. People are still going to be practicing social distancing. So is there anything that is really going to change or that that the county commission is changing right now? What's the change?

Brown:  Well, as of 5 o'clock today, we put a new order in place. That says, Gaston County if you can practice the social distancing guidelines that are put forth by the governor back to his statement, back to the very first days he did his press conference to say that people are to practice social distancing, practice proper hygiene, and also the PPE enforcement, we're saying that he's saying that these people can be essential businesses. Why can't we go ahead and put it out in place to say it in front of him because he was the one who deemed kind of a loophole for himself to have?

De la Canal: Finally, you are also on the county's Board of Health and Human Services. We know that public health officials have said relaxing requirements too soon could cause a spike in new cases. Is there anything you'll be watching for as things move forward that could persuade you to reconsider this?

Brown: We will look at the hospital data from what the Health and Human Services brings us from the health department. But the data at the hospital, we are not overrun at our hospital now and that with some of the problems that we had. If you think about it, when the data first came out, they said it would overrun a hospital. That's the reason that the stay at home order was put in from the governor. How he stated, we are worried about how this will overrun our hospital system. Not one hospital in North Carolina has been overrun yet.

De la Canal: OK. That's Gaston County Commissioner Chad Brown. Thank you so much for your time. 

Brown: Thank you. 

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Nick de la Canal is an on air host and reporter covering breaking news, arts and culture, and general assignment stories. His work frequently appears on air and online. Periodically, he tweets: @nickdelacanal