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Businesses air grievances with Covid-19 restrictions

State Sen. Chuck Edwards makes a point during a meeting with business owners hosted by state Republican Party Chairman Michael Whatley. State Sen. Chuck Edwards makes a point during a meeting with business owners hosted by state Republican Party Chairman Michael Whatley.

About two dozen local business owners and politicians gathered at Hannah Flanagan’s Pub on Tuesday morning in a Republican Party-orchestrated event to air grievances about the state’s business restrictions in the coronavirus pandemic.

Michael Whatley, chairman of the N.C. Republican Party, is hosting the traveling road show across the state to discuss the impacts of Covid-19 and its impact on small businesses in the area.
“We are running this series to hear what your story is,” Whatley said to the masked business owners seated at a long table at the popular Irish pub on Main Street. Videos of individual participants and their stories will be posted on the NCGOP website. 
The business leaders represented real estate, construction, gyms, summer camps, agriculture, restaurants, bars and more. City, county and state officials were also present, including state Sen. Chuck Edwards and Rep. Chuck McGrady.

In a roundtable discussion, each attendee had opportunity to speak about how their businesses had been affected by Covid-19, the shutdown and Gov. Roy Cooper’s executive orders. Concerns ranged from harms to small business, the loss of tourism and sales tax revenue and confusion over the executive orders.
“With Governor Cooper holed up in his mansion,” he is not hearing from these small business owners, Whatley said.
Multiple attendees spoke of forming plans to reopen in May only to have a new order extend restrictions.
“Moving the goalpost has been a theme here,” McGrady said.
Jake Dalton, a Transylvania County commissioner who owns a gym, asked, “Who tells who, who is and is not essential? I have bills to pay too.”
The politicization of the virus came up often throughout the meeting. Attendees said the upcoming elections were affecting the Cooper’s actions in regards to COVID-19.
“This should not be about politics,” Edwards said. “This should be about getting people back to work.”
Hendersonville City Council member Jennifer Hensley described the executive orders and shutdown as a “slow trickle and chipping away, of enforcement of things the government shouldn’t be a part of.”

Many business owners acknowledged the threat of the virus, but wished to reopen and reduce economic impacts.
“The answer, according to every expert across the world, is a comprehensive testing plan,” Whatley said. “Masks are a great tool, social distancing is a great tool, but it’s not a plan.”
Discussion also touched on how schools are being affected by the Governor’s orders.

Henderson County School Board member Amy Lynn Holt added: “Cooper tied our hands. It was more dangerous to bring them in than to keep them home.” She said in order to bring students to class in person, they would have to attend one week and then be out for two. “Where are the kids for those two weeks?” The School Board on Monday looked at the options for opening school on Aug. 17 and, after hearing multiple problems with returing to the classroom, opted for remote learning only through September.

County Commissioner Rebecca McCall said the situation is teaching children to fear the virus.
“Kids are the ones I’m most concerned about,” she said.