“We are wanting to do what’s best for our people”: Carter County declares state of emergency due to COVID-19

ABC Tri-Cities

CARTER COUNTY, Tenn. (WJHL) Following its first confirmed case of COVID-19, Carter County officials have declared a state of emergency for the county.

The “safer at home” order will be in effect Wednesday, April 1 at 12:01 a.m. and will last until Tuesday, April 7 at 11:59 p.m., to protect the public health, safety and welfare.

“We are wanting to do what’s best for our people,” Carter County Mayor Rusty Barnett said.

The county mayor said he has gotten calls about some residents not taking the precaution seriously.

Under the order, any type of travel is restricted except for getting essentials.

“People still can get out and go to work, go to the grocery store, go to the doctors, do your regular activities but stay at home as much as possible,” Mayor Rusty Barnett said. “You can still get out and take a walk or something. It’s not restricting you straight to your home. You still can get your exercise.”

All public and private gatherings of more than 10, outside a household or living unit, is prohibited.

“What we’re trying to do is mainly prevent congregations of people,” Elizabethton City Manager Curt Alexander said.

Alexander told Pheben Kassahun that the goal is to not issue any citations but will, if they have to.

“If we do this now, we’ll be outside sooner rather than later,” Alexander said.

“We want to enforce this without being the bad guys,” Mayor Barnett said. “If we see gangs of people congregating, there will be somebody that will come by and tell them yo disperse.”

People who are experiencing homelessness are exempt from this but are strongly urged to seek safe shelter.

“We’re lucky that we’ve have one right now. One case. We’re very fortunate,” Mayor Barnett said.

The order also states, all, but essential business must close.

Owner of All Star Sports and Country Crafts, April Proffitt, has made adjustments and utilizes her store’s Facebook page to communicate with customers.

“They’ll say we need to come in, you know, different things and some have came in. You can tell a lot hasn’t been in town,” April Proffitt said.

In her 24 years of business, Proffitt said downtown Elizabethton has never been a ghost town.

“It is weird, you know, that it’s at least half full,” Proffitt siad. “It’s a homey town, where people really enjoy walking and seeing the stores open.”

“We’re going to beat this thing. We want to do it with the least possible consequences. We don’t want anybody to get sick,” Mayor Barnett said. “We will get through this but we have to work together. I can’t do it by myself. No body can do it by themself.”

Carter County Mayor Rusty Barnett said that the county will circle back next week to see if this local state of emergency will have to be extended for the next seven days. Due to state law, county executive orders must be given in seven day increments.

To read the Carter County executive order, issued by county Mayor Rusty Barnett, click here.

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