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Unicoi joins Erwin and county in Covid-19 precautions

Sue Guinn Legg • Mar 26, 2020 at 9:49 PM

UNICOI — Hours ahead of the confirmation of Unicoi County’s first case of coronavirus infection, the town of Unicoi on Wednesday joined Erwin and Unicoi County in restricting access to its facilities and meetings.

The town announced the closing of most of its facilities, restrictions on access to Town Hall and modification of public access to town meetings in a press release.

Less than 24 hours later, Unicoi County Mayor Garland “Bubba” Eveley shared news that officials in each of three local governments had been bracing for. “As of today (Thursday, March 26), we do now have a confirmed case of a patient with COVID-19 in Unicoi County. We do not have any other details on the case at this time,” Evely wrote in a message posted on the Unicoi County Commission’s Facebook page.

Ashely Shelton, Unicoi’s director of communications and programs, released a detailed statement of precautionary measures being implemented, citing town leaders’ regular communications with state and regional health officials, executive orders issued by Gov. Bill Lee and a growing number of confirmed COVID-19 infections in surrounding counties.

“The safety and welfare of (Unicoi) citizens is the highest priority for the administration and all decisions are intended to protect the well-being of both residents and visitors,” Shelton said.

The following measures are in effect through 5 p.m. April 30:

Town Hall to remain open with restricted access

• Unicoi residents are encouraged to refrain from visiting Town Hall except for essential business and are asked to call prior to visiting to inquire if their business may be handled online or through email.

• Town Hall business hours will be limited to 2-5 p.m. and no visitors will be allowed in the building without a scheduled appointment.

• Anyone visiting Town Hall will be asked screening questions prior to entering the building and required to used hand sanitizer provided at the entrance.

• A secure dropbox has been installed outside the building where payments or other documents may be left.

• Court proceedings scheduled for April 7 have been rescheduled for May 5.

Tourist Information and Visitors Center closed

Following the lead of Tennessee Welcome Centers, Unicoi’s Tourist Information and Visitors Center is closed to all guests, meetings and events. Signs have been posted outside the center to direct visitors to the center’s restrooms and outdoor brochure kiosk.

Bogart-Bowman Cabin closed and events canceled

All events at the town’s Bogart-Bowman Cabin, including the weekly Pick’n on the Porch music sessions, have been canceled and the cabin will not be available for private parties.

Town meetings to be conducted electronically.

In accordance with the governor’s suspension of some open meetings requirements and guidelines provided by the state Comptroller’s Office, the April meetings of Unicoi Planning Commission and Board of Mayor and Aldermen will be conducted electronically.

Town staff members are working to set up a platform to provide the public with video and audio access to the meeting. Meeting notices will include more information regarding available methods of access online, by telephone or by other means.

The mayor, city recorder, city attorney and communications director will facilitate the meeting from Town Hall and board members will participate electronically or by other means.

The meetings will be closed to the public but speakers will be placed outside Town Hall to provide audible access to the proceedings.

Mountain Harvest Kitchen events canceled and access restricted.

Mountain Harvest Kitchen, a regional food business incubator, will remain open although classes, events and drop-in visits will be restricted until further notice. Staff will be available to assist with kitchen needs and remote tours and training can be scheduled by contacting the kitchen by email to [email protected]

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