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'We have to get a hold of this' | Greensboro orders emergency declaration due to spike in COVID-19 cases, businesses in violation will be fined

Mayor Vaughan said the declaration goes into effect at 5 p.m., Friday, Nov. 20 and will remain in effect until it is modified or rescinded.
Credit: News 2

GREENSBORO, N.C. — The city of Greensboro is under an emergency declaration.

Greensboro Mayor Nancy Vaughan issued the order Friday afternoon to reinforce Governor Roy Cooper’s Executive Order 176. The order requires the use of face-covering by persons in North Carolina and reduces the occupancy limits of indoor activities.

Mayor Vaughan said the declaration goes into effect at 5 p.m., Friday, Nov. 20 and will remain in effect until it is modified or rescinded.

“This enhanced State of Emergency does not include additional regulations,” Vaughan said. “This is an effort to reinforce existing regulations, allowing the city manager to deploy employees as needed.”

The city said it will cite and fine businesses found in violation of the order. That includes a $100 fine for each person found to be on the premises or within any business in excess of the limits imposed by the order.

The fine will be a civil penalty and it will be enforced by city employees, such as fire officials.

The city will first issue a violation. The second violation will including citing and issuing an order to immediately close for a 24 hour period. The third violation would force the business to close for a period of 48 hours and the business would also be cited. The business would close for 72 hours if found in violation for a fourth time.

"I’m very concerned when we look a the way they’re trending up every single morning we have to get a hold of this and one thing is we need to take a stronger enforcement," said Vaughan. 

Vaughan said the city is not adding anything new or rolling anything back, but enforcing what's already in place. 

“I want all businesses to safely remain open and to safely send our children back to school,” Vaughan said. “Until a vaccine is readily available, we must work together to stop the spread of COVID-19, by practicing the 3-Ws (Wear, Wait and Wash). Prevention is the key. Support our local business by using curbside or delivery options, especially if you cannot wear a mask.”

Offices and businesses should be in compliance with, among other things, the following specific requirements:

· Applicable capacity limits clearly marked at all entrances

· Compliance with such capacity limitations

· Signage on all entrances giving notice that face covering, over mouth and nose, is a requirement to gain admission to any such office or business

· All employees who interact with the general public wearing a face covering

· Any employee who cannot maintain social distance from other employees consistently must wear a face covering

· Social distancing must be maintained as per the Governor’s order

· Hand sanitizer must be provided

For more information, resources and guidance about how offices and businesses may safely operate in the context of this COVID-19 pandemic, visit the NC Department of Health and Human Services’ webpages for guidance and its COVID-19 dashboard.

Greensboro business owners had mixed opinions about the order. 

Seth Mapes, owner of the Bearded Goat downtown, told WFMY News 2 it's about time the city did something like this. After being closed for several months - and now, only open with outdoor occupancy - he says it's frustrating to see some other businesses not abiding by the coronavirus restrictions, when the vast majority are following the rules. 

"It seems to me that those people, or those places don't really care, about anybody else but themselves...to the point where they're putting peoples health in jeopardy and making the cases worse daily," he said, "I just think it's disrespectful to the people that are doing it right. Us little people are just trying to survive, other people are thriving, and blatantly just don't even care about the rules."

On the other hand, Chris Lester with Natty Greene's said he's not a fan of this declaration and what it means for small businesses trying to stay afloat. 

"Businesses like ours are doing a third of the business that we normally do. We can barely keep the lights on and pay rent...and then they're going to add $100 fine for every occurrence they find? I mean, I think it's a little bit ridiculous quite honestly."

Other Triad city leaders also said more needs to be done. 

Winston-Salem Mayor Allen Joines said he's asked the city manager to develop a plan and add enforcement to the governor's latest order. Joines said they'll likely put that plan in place next week.

City of Burlington Mayor Ian Baltutis said the trends are concerning and something needs to be done fast, but he wants more direction from the state across the board. 

"These trends are popping up in regional areas so a city taking action isn't always the most effective. I think we need some statewide leadership and some statewide direction," he said.