BUCKHANNON – Social distancing guidelines just got a little bit stricter in the City of Buckhannon.
During an emergency meeting Thursday before its regular 7 p.m. bimonthly meeting, Buckhannon City Council passed several additional measures related to COVID-19, one of which bans ‘essential businesses’ from allowing more than two customers for every 1,000 square feet to enter their premises.
The prohibition was approved in accordance with an emergency rule adopted by the West Virginia Legislature earlier in the day Thursday that says no essential business, as defined by the state, shall allow more than two people per every 1,000 square feet inside its premises. In addition, businesses less than 1,000 square feet, can’t have more than five individuals – including customers and employees – in their business at once.
Both rules went into effect immediately in city limits.
Mayor David McCauley said the measure, in addition to several other initiatives, were designed to prevent further spread of the coronavirus and the disease it causes, COVID-19. Thus far, three people have tested positive for coronavirus in Upshur County, and while two have recovered, one is still self-isolating for the remainder of a 14-day quarantine period, the Upshur-Buckhannon Health Department stated in a press release Thursday.
Council also approved the following additional public health-related measures:
- Banned commercial activities – such as the Buckhannon-Upshur Farmers’ Market – from taking place in Jawbone Park and the Riverwalk Trail until Gov. Jim Justice lifts the statewide state of emergency. “This would include but is not limited to the farmers’ market activities normally conducted in Jawbone Park,” McCauley said in prepared remarks. “To that end, all commercial activities are prohibited for the duration of the state of emergency in Jawbone Park and at our Riverwalk Trail.” At council’s April 2 meeting, council closed all parks with the exception of the Riverwalk and Jawbone, but city crews removed benches from Jawbone Park.
- Prohibited yard and garage sales for the time being. Specifically, McCauley said, all “yard, garage, patio, attic and similar sales or giveaways of domestic property items” aren’t permitted to be sold within Buckhannon’s corporate limits for the duration of the state of emergency.
- Established a ‘line of duty’ death designation for any city police or firefighter death related to COVID-19. Any full-time member of the city’s police or fire departments who would happen to become infected with COVID-19 and passes away as a result “shall be deemed for all purposes as having contracted the virus while in the line of duty,” the measure says. A ‘line of duty’ death designation would entitle city first responders’ families to certain benefits. “We have received a letter dated April 9, 2020 executed by all of the members of our police and fire departments,” McCauley said. “Our first responders are specifically requesting that our City Council presumptively find that if any member of our full-time police or fire departments would contract the COVID-19 virus and die as a consequence of the virus … that such death would be considered by our organization as a ‘line of duty’ death.”
- Affirmed that anyone who gathers in groups of 10 or more people within city limits may be cited by the Buckhannon Police Department.
- Urged residents to limit their grocery store trips to once a week and consider wearing face masks while making trips.
“We all continue to appreciate our excellent city staff, the hospital and healthcare employees who are on the front line of battling this threat, the staffs at our grocery stores who are working overtime to stock shelves so that we may all continue to be fed, the restaurants that continue to offer delivery or pick-up food services and the food delivery efforts of our school system,” McCauley said.
“We continue to be all in THIS together, and I know as we get through the coming weeks, that we’ll remain strong as a community with minimal impact upon the health of our residents,” the mayor added. “Anyone having an emergency should contact 911 as you normally would. The best source of information about Covid-19 remains the Centers for Disease Control website.”
Councilwoman Mary Albaugh made a motion to approve the emergency measures, which was seconded by councilman Robbie Skinner prior to passing unanimously.