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Buncombe County officials waffled March 19 on the specifics of a local order they issued that day mandating the closure of certain businesses and prohibiting gatherings of 10 or more people.

First they lacked clarity on when the measure would go into effect (the gatherings were immediately banned; the business closure was effective at 5 p.m. that night).

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Then, they disagreed on exactly what businesses were included in the measure. The county distributed a clarifying release late that evening. Here's what we know now:

What businesses are required to close?

The order specifically names gyms, fitness centers, exercise facilities, indoor pools, spas, beauty salons, barbershops, movie theaters, live performance venues and arcades as being affected by the order.

According to the county, gyms and fitness centers include:

  • martial arts studios
  • cross-fit gyms
  • dance studios

Spas include:

  • massage parlors
  • medical spas
  • nail salons
  • beauty parlors
  • hair dressers, even one chair salons
  • barber shops 
  • tattoo parlors

And arcades include: 

  • bowling alleys
  • indoor recreation centers
  • climbing gyms
  • trampoline parks
  • escape rooms

"This is not an exhaustive list," the county stated in its release.

If your business or service delivery requires you to be within six feet of another person for 10 minutes or more, then it likely that it falls within the declaration.

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Tony Morris, co-owner of Asheville Sun Soo Martial Arts, met with colleagues to discuss next steps in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. Asheville Citizen Times

What businesses are excluded?

The mandate does not include:

  • grocery stores
  • pharmacies
  • convenience stores
  • hardware stores
  • gas stations
  • farmers markets
  • food distribution sites selling prepared food

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Auto dealerships are not included in Buncombe's mandate as long as folks are practicing social distancing and not standing within six feet of each other for 10 minutes or more, Public Health preparedness director Fletcher Tove added in a March 20 briefing.

Where can 10 or more people still gather?

The limitation on gatherings does not include:

  • normal operations at medical facilities
  • recovery groups
  • airports
  • bus and train stations
  • shopping malls
  • office environments
  • factories
  • child care centers.

Essential health and safety services also are exempt.

Are outdoor gatherings of 10 or more prohibited?

Yes. The order limits all gatherings, regardless of available space. 

Why did the county do this?

Buncombe officials said the order is part of an effort to "be proactive and save lives" by increasing and encouraging social distancing in the county.

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"This next week is absolutely critical in Buncombe County's fight against the spread of COVID-19," the release states. "These enhanced measures we are implementing now are vital in reducing the impact the disease will have on our community in the long-term."

Buncombe County Public Health will reevaluate the measure March 27. Tove said this could mean additional closures.

Mackenzie Wicker covers Buncombe County for the Asheville Citizen Times. You can reach her at mwicker@citizentimes.com or follow her on Twitter @MackWick.

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