County declared State of Emergency


Commission chairman says no reason to panic

  • Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay
    Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay
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Rob Peck, Chairman

On Tuesday Clay County was declared a Local State of Emergency, but the declaration brings no new mandates and appears to be a tool to help our county recoup costs associated with the coronavirus pandemic.

County Commission Chairman Rob Peck signed the order and in the declaration he cautioned residents not to panic. In the following email interview, Peck explains how
the declaration came about, its purpose and about the team working behind the scenes on the coronavirus efforts. He also answered other questions related to the county and its handling of the emergency.

• As chairman of the board, you can declare a State of Emergency for county and town, correct? Is the mayor part of the decision making?

NCGS 166A allows for a local state of emergency to be declared by a city or county official authorized by their jurisdiction. As the Chairman of the Board of Commissioners, I am granted the authority to declare on a county level. Mayor Baughn has similar authority on the municipal level. The Mayor and I communicated on this subject on multiple occasions and he was in full agreement with the BOCs in declaring the emergency declaration. Our declaration is all encompassing, thereby eliminating the need for the town to do so individually.

• Who makes up your consultation team on the declaration and other coronavirus related decisions?

The decision to declare a state of emergency was one made after much consultation with my fellow commissioners, County Leadership and Mayor Baughn. The BOCs has consistently stressed a positive message over fear and hysteria. We have been very deliberate in our actions, ensuring that rational and reasonable decisions are made relative to all things COVID-19. We want to be certain that our citizens realize that the declaration in no way should be a cause for panic. It is merely a means to obtain additional assistance and resources if needed. With regards to other coronavirus related decisions, we are in constant communication with our leadership team and involved in or briefed daily on all developments related to COVID-19.

• It doesn’t appear there are any mandates that go along with the declaration, so is it more of a tool that makes im- posing mandates easier and faster if they are ever needed?

The primary purpose of the declaration is to allow for reimbursement of costs associated with the implementation of our Emergency Preparedness Plan. It also allows us to seek additional resources should they become necessary and implement additional preventative measures to protect health, life and property if needed. The declaration can be amended at any time with BOC approval in consultation with our emergency management director, sheriff, health director or county manager.

• Several residents are complaining because they see tags at our grocery store from many different states. They worry they are depleting our food and other necessities and want to know if there’s some- thing you can do about this situation, perhaps similar to Graham County’s visitor permit policy. Is there?

The Board of Commissioners understands the fear and frustrations of our citizens. Panic as a result of the virus has caused empty shelves, bare cupboards and a run on basic necessities. Per daily updates by State Representative Kevin Corbin, there is no shortage of food “anywhere in the supply chain.” This tells us that the panic buying is directly attributed to the shortage of goods. Deliveries continue as scheduled. As panic buying diminishes, the stores should again find themselves remaining stocked. There is evidence to suggest that such hoarding is diminishing. Our current declaration has no restrictions or prohibitions as allowed under NCGSs. There are no plans to close access to our county at this time. Again, reasonable measured responses are what is needed.

• As a husband, father and businessman, how are you balancing these roles?

It has been an unusually stressful time for all. Schools, businesses and restaurants have closed, extra-curricular activities have been canceled and life as we knew it just a few short weeks ago has been flipped upside down. Like many, my wife and I are having to adapt to the many changes in our lives and the ramification of those changes on our children. We have done our best to try and maintain some sense or normalcy for our kids sake. Trying to raise a family and run a successful business is difficult enough under nor- mal conditions. Very few understand the amount of time and energy our board dedi- cates to dealing with county business. This commitment will often take myself and others away from home and work. Here lately more than ever. It is indeed a balancing act; however, I am privileged to serve Clay County. It is for the reasons above that I decided to initially run for office. As a husband, father and businessman I have a vested interest in the success of Clay County. We as a board remain fully committed to the health and wellness of our citizens and will continue to work towards that goal.

• What’s the best advice you can give people in our communities?

The BOCs is fully committed to the health and welfare of our citizens. This extends well beyond healthcare alone. As a board, we have to balance the health of our citizens with the socioeconomic impact to our communities. We have continually stressed keeping things in perspective relative to facts. Bad data leads to irrational decisions. We encourage citizens to continue to follow the recommended guidelines as outlined by the CDC for the prevention of respiratory illnesses. Common sense measures will lead to a greater decrease in all disease transmission. Implement sound public health and hygiene measures, including frequent hand washing and sanitation.

If you are sick or at a high risk of being sick, stay at home and self isolate. Full recommendations related to these guidelines can be found on our county, NCDHHS or CDC websites. Numbers will continue to rise as testing becomes more available, but we need to remember that an increase in new cases should not lead to an increase in hysteria. This too shall pass.