One mountain county blocked visitors in its battle against coronavirus. The checkpoints came with some criticism, but they have proven successful. Now, those barriers have been removed.
In late March, Graham County leaders put up checkpoints, stopping in-bound traffic from North Carolina and Tennessee. Only residents and commercial traffic were allowed through. All others needed to get permits online. It was a strong action to stop the spread of COVID-19.
“We feel like that the efforts that the board made to kind of slow the traffic down coming into the county, especially over the Easter holiday, has made the difference,” County Manager Becky Garland said.
Garland said she fielded some angry calls. But she thinks many visitors just driving through, or not spending too much time in the county, likely didn’t realize Graham County doesn't have a hospital and has just two ambulances.
“We love you. We love having you come through in the summers and during the tourist season. But we love you enough not to let you die here either from the virus or if you have a wreck,” Garland said.
Garland said residents have been very supportive of the roadblocks.
Graham is just one of a handful of North Carolina counties that can say it doesn’t have a coronavirus case.
Commissioners lifted the barriers Sunday night.
“We've taken the barriers down at Cherohala Skyway, Tapoco Gap and all of our forest service accessible roads," Garland said.
But other coronavirus measures remain in place.
“We still have all our accommodations closed. We still have our curfew in place, and we're just kind of sitting back and waiting to see what the governor has for us next,” Garland said.
Garland said the board will re-allocate resources accordingly to stay ahead of the virus.
“If nothing else, we're helping to flatten the curve in North Carolina,” she said, grateful the board took proactive measures.