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Patrick Taylor Highlands Mayor

The Town of Highlands was placed under a state of emergency Tuesday afternoon by the town board adopting an emergency resolution.  The emergency proclamation I have signed allows the mayor and board to make responses and decisions addressing COVID-19 immediately, without following standard procedures which could delay critical decisions. We will remain under a state of emergency until the state and county rescinds their existing declarations.

There is a chain of authority for dealing with the coronavirus crisis.  At the federal level, President Trump has declared a national state of emergency. This declaration was very important for state and county public health departments and hospitals.  The federal declaration allows these agencies to suspend standard rules and regulations in order to immediately treat patients and address the spread of the virus.  The state emergency order by Governor Cooper reinforces the federal order and enables state officials to mobilize resources without delays.

Our town state of emergency mirrors state and federal proclamations.  For instance, we have the police powers to disperse gatherings that exceed federal and state requirements.  We can issue citations to those violating emergency orders.  I am certain that our citizens and merchants will cooperate with all declarations, and enforcement will not be needed.

Let me emphasize the town is not the health agency tracking and managing the virus.  We are working with the Macon County Department of Public Health, the lead agency at the local level.  They are coordinating efforts with hospitals and federal and state health organizations in combating the spread of COVID-19. 

The town manager and I are in continuous contact with Macon County Emergency Services and the Macon County Health Department.  We will respond immediately to any requests or advisories.  Accordingly, we have postponed all town meetings until further notice.

The town is also working to keep residents informed. I encourage everyone to visit the  town website where there are county and state links to information about the COVID-19 virus.   While we want to keep residents informed, any inquires about specific cases or infected individuals cannot be divulged. There are privacy protocols that authorities must maintain, especially in emergency situations where rumors and panic reactions can occur.  

For instance, there are rumors in town that an infected person has been moving throughout the town infecting others.  The Macon County Public Health Department follows a protocol for known cases.  A person infected with the virus will be visited by public health officials.  That person will be required to self-isolate in their home until their ability to spread the virus has passed.  A public health official will monitor the situation with daily visits to the residence.

I have been receiving numerous calls about what one should do in this emergency situation. My response is to stay at home as much as possible, avoid gatherings, and practice the recommended personal hygiene practices such as frequent hand washing.

This emergency will be a major challenge. We must all work together in a calm and supportive effort to address this crisis. Rumor mongering and wild speculation is not helpful. In a past time of dark crisis President Franklin Roosevelt put it aptly, “The only fear we have to fear is . . . fear itself.” 

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