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NC sheriff says he won’t stop people from eating in restaurants despite pandemic rules

“Our businesses and citizens have weathered the COVID-19 pandemic and will recover, but we have to get back to some degree of normalcy”

Bailey Aldridge
The News Observer

GRAHAM COUNTY, N.C. — A North Carolina sheriff says he won’t stop people in his county from eating inside restaurants despite state coronavirus restrictions.

Joseph Jones, sheriff of Graham County in western North Carolina, said in a letter posted to Facebook on Tuesday that he will not enforce the statewide order that prohibits restaurants from allowing customers to dine in amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“This is of course with the safe practice of employees being tested if symptoms arise, wearing the appropriate personal protective equipment (gloves, masks, whatever is needed), washing hands and the cleaning of tables and surfaces more frequently than normal,” he said in the letter.

Jones said in the letter that the decision aims to help people in the county “recover” and to give people an opportunity to eat inside with friends or family.

Under Phase One of North Carolina’s reopening plan, restaurants are still limited to providing takeout and delivery. Dine-in services are still not allowed in an effort to slow the spread of the virus.

Gov. Roy Cooper has said he’s hopeful the state will be able to move into Phase Two of the plan by the end of this week, when Phase One is set to expire.

Restaurants and bars would be allowed to offer dine-in services but would be required to operate at reduced capacities, The News & Observer reports.

“We are hoping that we can move into Phase Two,” Cooper said during a Monday news conference. “We still need to look at a couple of more days of the data. We should be able to announce something this week by mid week regarding what’s going to happen on Friday.”

Graham County, with a population of more than 8,400, has two confirmed cases of COVID-19, according to The N&O.

“Our businesses and citizens have weathered the COVID-19 pandemic and will recover with the help of each other but we have to get back to some degree of normalcy and support local business,” the letter said.

This isn’t the first time a sheriff in North Carolina has decided not to enforce an aspect of North Carolina’s stay-at-home order. Sheriffs of a few other counties previously said they wouldn’t enforce rules on church attendance.

This came before a federal judge over the weekend blocked the governor’s restrictions on religious services, a decision Cooper’s office has said it won’t appeal.

The Graham County Sheriff’s Office said in a Facebook post the letter about restaurants was sent to the county’s public health director, the county manager and other officials.

Businesses included in the decision were also given copies of the letter, the post said.