But officials say they will wait for the governor’s decision before scaling back coronavirus restrictions
Summer apparently came to Surf City over the weekend.
There were no real problems with its arrival, according to Town Manager Kyle Breuer, though there were crowds that resembled a regular summer weekend, and there were a number of parking violations, given that public parking was still off limits.
"There were a lot of people here, given that the weather was nice and people are trying to get out of the house," Breuer said this week after the dust settled. "Folks are able to park on town-owned rights of way, with certain restrictions, and we did have some parking violations that were issued.
“But outside of that, there were no additional problems associated with people coming to the beach. It was just busy. I only wish that our businesses were open to benefit."
Like many municipalities across North Carolina and the country -- especially in the South, Pender officials are feeling some pressure from residents and business owners to start relaxing the travel and working restrictions put into place to control the spread of COVID-19.
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As a whole, Pender County is following the steps set in place by Gov. Roy Cooper, meaning that non-essential businesses remain closed, social distancing guidelines are in place, teleworking for essential employees is strongly encouraged, gatherings are prohibited, and the public places where they are often staged are locked down.
“The county has not opted to implement anything that is any more restrictive than the minimum restrictions provided by the governor in executive orders,” said Pender County Manager Chad McEwen.
Pender has been blessed with relative good health in this pandemic. As of Monday, the county health department was aware of 17 residents who had tested positive for COVID-19. Of the positive cases, five were prisoners at Pender Correctional. Pender also had seen one death. That compares to 91 positive cases and three deaths in New Hanover County, albeit with a much larger population.
“I think the public has been pretty understanding and supportive of these steps,” McEwen said, “and another thing that has added to that lack of issue in Pender County is, I think, a lot of people understand that this is a state-level decision,” rather than something debated and decided by the county commissioners.
Cooper’s current COVID-19 restrictions run through Friday. The governor has strongly hinted he will move North Carolina toward a phased reopening of its economy starting this weekend if state health officials support such a step.
Pender officials say they’ll be ready to move to relax the restrictions when the announcement comes.
Sticking closely to the governor’s plan is not quite so exactly the case in some of the municipal jurisdictions within Pender County, particularly Surf City, which closed its beach for several weeks, and Topsail, which did not, but which did effectively limit activity on the strand by closing public parking.
Both beach towns are slowly implementing steps to reopen their communities, but not with the complete lifting of restrictions on beach use and short-term rentals as Ocean Isle Beach in Brunswick County has instituted.
While the virus has impacted a lot of things in Pender County, what has made particular noise is a transportation project that hasn’t been impacted so far -- the Hampstead Bypass.
While the N.C. Department of Transportation (DOT) has put a freeze on almost all new projects due to plummeting revenue tied to the governor’s stay-at-home order,
Indeed, the bypass – after lobbying by Pender officials that stretched over decades – has become one of the most important projects in the state, Commissioner David Piepmeyer said. While funding for no state project is set in stone, given an uncertain end date for COVID-19, the bypass is at least safe for now, he said.
“The Hampstead bypass has not been impacted by the virus,” Piepmeyer said. “I can’t speak to whether or not it might be impacted in the future.”
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