Changes Coming to Local Mask Policies
Over the past two days, the Watauga County Board of Education and Town of Boone Council held public meetings to discuss mask mandates and policies.
Tuesday night, the Watauga County Board of Education voted 5-0 to move to mask-optional operations for students and staff, effective Monday February 28th.
Tonight, the Boone Town Council voted 3-2 to rescind its State of Emergency, which includes its mask mandate, effective March 7th at 12:00 AM, and will revisit COVID-19 metrics and date at the next meeting of the Town Council, which is scheduled for March 9, 2022 at 9:00 AM.
Both groups held these discussions in part due to recent recommendations made by North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper, which encouraged local municipalities and school systems to remove local mask mandates.
As we move forward with our schools (Feb 28) and businesses (March 7) are able to make changes to their mask policies, it’s important to remember that when these changes take effect, some businesses in our community may still require masks for customers and staff, which is the right of owners to implement should they choose.
We also remind you that Federal law still requires wearing of masks in public transit settings, such as riding Appalcart, school buses, etc. A State of Emergency still exists in Watauga County, enacted by the County Board of Commissioners, which calls for masks to be worn inside county-operated facilities, regardless of where they happen to be located throughout the area.
When all changes to mandates take effect, we strongly suggest that you make plans to keep a mask with you, and should you wish to do business with an establishment that requires a mask for entry, be prepared to honor that request. Many facilities, such as long-term care facilities and health care facilities may require mask mandates due to policies set by other governing bodies and agencies. You should also plan to see some events strongly encourage masking, based on type of venue and proximity to attendees. Said simply, be prepared for some places to require masks while others may not. Preparing for this reality can help make everyone aware of what to expect as we move closer to these upcoming dates.
Following these changes, we will see a number of people throughout our community that choose to continue to mask for various reasons, including those with loved ones that have chronic conditions, family members that are not yet eligible for vaccines, and many of our front-line medical personnel that have been directly responsible for our community not seeing deeper impact over the last two years. We will also see people that do not wear masks that are double vaccinated and boosted. We know our community is capable of moving past some of the presumptions and aggressive behavior that have sparked the kind of discourse that is not indicative of what the High Country is all about.
As a community, we are tired, and many remain anxious and scared about the variables this pandemic has brought to our doorstep. This impact has been felt beyond our physical health, but our mental health has been impacted as well. There is no need for score keeping. We have all lost something in these last two years, some much more so than others. I hope we can also see that we have all won as well, with the majority of community rising to the occasion with the compassion, creativity, and ingenuity that makes us thankful to call this special place home.
Practice kindness, patience, and grace as we move forward. Just because mask mandates are changing (Feb 28/March 7), we are a long way from seeing the impacts of COVID-19 remove themselves completely from our community. We remain committed to work with community leaders to share important information with our community throughout this process and thank all that have worked so hard to #KeepBooneHealthy.
All the best,
Boone Area Chamber of Commerce
Click here for AppHealthCare’s COVID-19 resource page, which includes links to data dashboards, testing times and locations, and vaccine information.