North Carolina County Defies Governor’s Stay-at-Home Order

A county in North Carolina clashed with the governor’s office Wednesday after indicating that its leaders were going to sign a reopening order despite the state’s stay-at-home order cemented in place.

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The move was to be led by Tracy Philbeck, the Gaston County commissioner, who initially said the county would reopen at 5 p.m. Wednesday. He said what many Americans are feeling, “Staying home is not a solution. People need to go back to work.”

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“If you don’t want to open your business, you don’t have to,” he said, according to WBTV. “We can protect the health of our citizens while at the same time putting our citizens back to work.”

The county later backtracked and announced that it was “still subject to and restricted by any and all of the governor’s executive orders unless and until they expire or are otherwise replaces, rescinded, or eliminated.”

Gaston County said in the statement that Gov. Roy Cooper’s office “rightly pointed out” that the state’s order “supersedes our own.” Cooper’s office called the county’s earlier announcement “dangerous” and confusing to its residents.

Philbeck said in a statement that he will support and “will stand with those that want to open their businesses and go to work.”

The earlier call by the county to reopen is in line with the growing trend of Americans who see these shelter-in-place orders as no longer useful. Many areas in the country, outside of New York and New Jersey, have seen fewer-than-expected cases and citizens are beginning to ask how long these virtual bans on movement should stay in place.

The Charlotte Observer was unforgiving in its critique of Gaston County. The paper’s editorial page called the county’s defiance “comical,” “cowardly” and simply a play for attention by Philbeck.

“It also means that Philbeck’s defiance is not really defiance at all. He’s telling his county’s business owners to take their chances and see what happens. It was a statement that had all the courage of a big brother urging his younger sibling to disobey mom and dad,” the editorial read.

Adam Gaub, the public information officer for the county, told WBTV that the county’s order was largely symbolic and businesses that decide to open could still face a Class 2 misdemeanor charge.

“We are not going to do anything that will put our employees in a legal bind,” Gaub said. “We are not going to encourage them to break the law.”

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