On Saturday, April 25th, Gaston County Commission Chairman Tracy Philbeck was on a Facebook Live “Town Hall” style video hosted by the Conservative think tank The John Locke Foundation, where he broke news by stating that Gaston County was going to contradict the Statewide order put in place by Governor Roy Cooper that regulates activities during the current COVID-19 pandemic. At the time, it appeared that this tactic by the Chairman in such a political environment was possibly just a trial balloon to gauge support, using Gaston County as a potential political guinea pig for reopening a county early.
So today, April 29th, at a press conference, Chairman Philbeck kept to his word and proclaimed that it was going to basically be “Business As Usual!” as of 5pm. This created an immediate situation where mass confusion started setting in for restaurant owners, staff, and customers alike. Especially when the actual order itself directly contradicted his own words…
The obvious question being: which is it? Subvert the State order today at 5pm or “once state-level restrictions … are relaxed or otherwise lifted”?
In the Facebook group, with over 22k local members, posts and comments started pouring in wondering what was going on, who was reopening, etc. I and those who help admin the group have had to take steps to limit discussion while attempting to gain some kind of clarification. At this time I am still weighing options on how this may effect how the group operates during the time that Gaston is not in compliance with the Statewide order.
As the owner of this website and social media accounts, it is my personal opinion and the official opinion of this brand that the decision to attempt to override the Governor’s orders are a political ploy by Chairman Philbeck and will possibly put at risk the very positive gains that the early actions of social distancing and economic limitations created for Gaston County.
I agree wholeheartedly that this pandemic has created extreme hardships for local businesses and in many cases especially for restaurants. By being directly in touch with so many of these restaurant owners and staff, I have heard first-hand how tough it has been to remain open in such modified and limited conditions. I also agree 100% with the need to reopen as soon as possible, so long as that can be done in a safe manner is accordance with the guidance from health/disease experts and in alliance with the current Statewide order.
The Chairman has a history of playing politics, but this time he is playing it with the health of the citizens of Gaston County at stake. I urge everyone to continue to practice social distancing and to do as much as possible to remain safe during this time, following the official guidelines and order from the Governor.
I can’t stand the thought of not expressing my thoughts on this matter, and then reading a few weeks from now, God forbid, that even one person was hospitalized, or worse, after contracting the disease at a local eatery dining in on April 30th. If GastonEats is to be an outlet of advertising & marketing for these businesses, it must be done alongside this statement of disapproval for the County’s actions.
And hopefully, after May 8th and hopefully not much longer, I will be first in line (and 6-feet apart in that line) to dine in at so many of the wonderful, locally-owned Gaston County restaurants! My thoughts and best wishes remain with you all, your employees and everyone else during this time!
David E. Turner