After reading the previous letter to the editor regarding the town of Black Mountain and its perceived noncompliance with state mandates adherent to the COVID-19 outbreak, I couldn’t help notice some discrepancies between the town manager’s denial of any such negligence and the concrete facts of the situation [“Goodbye, Old Friend,” July 8, Xpress].
Josh Harrold is mistaken when he claims that Black Mountain has been following, to the fullest extent, all mandates thus far enacted. I, personally, along with other residents here, have seen a number of government officials ignoring safeguards. These include, but are not limited to, patrolling police officers performing their duties without masks and clearly without any masks on standby for use, and officers walking into small, confined business places devoid of masks or any other such personal protective equipment. On one occasion, I actually witnessed, right on the town square, a small group of officers and firefighters standing around in close proximity, not one of them wearing a mask, gloves or anything else except their normal uniforms.
In fact, as was stated in the previous letter, the vast majority of businesses in the area are showing little to no acknowledgement of the necessity for safety modifications in order to mitigate the current health crisis. Specifically, one small business has just now installed a much needed protective sheath in a small, confined checkout area, only after months of the pandemic being in full swing. Still, the majority of clerks do not don masks or sanitize hands between customers. This behavior and attitude is more the rule than the exception and it has spread rampantly, much like the virus itself, into the consciousness of the local citizens. Conversations have ensued regarding this matter, and storekeepers are actually frightened to take decisive action against consumers who seem bent on violating the rights and safety of others. The proprietors fear unknown, quite possibly violent or at least equally aggressive and unreasonable retaliation if they were to enforce the mask requirements clearly listed upon entry.
One notable exception has been Hopey & Co. of Black Mountain, whose owners and employees have, from the beginning, strictly followed all health and safety practices thus far enacted. Another is the Blue Ridge Biscuit Co., similarly compliant, among a few others. But again, this is, by far, the exception to the vast majority rule.
To be fair, the first responders, shopkeepers/vendors and law enforcement of Black Mountain are easily among the finest, friendliest and most fair-minded staples of the community that I’ve ever had the privilege of encountering.
Still, on a perhaps more administrative level, it is one thing to harbor disregard for the validity of this pandemic, but to contest such heedless resistance among one’s community is a more serious matter. For it could possibly infer a certain contempt for a large portion of humanity itself, nullifying any chance for further discourse or negotiation on the key issues at hand. During critical times such as these, before assuming or declaring a population to be in full accordance with safety guidelines, one must conduct a proper survey and inventory of their direct surroundings.
— George Bazley
Editor’s note: Xpress contacted Josh Harrold, Black Mountain’s town manager, and Black Mountain Police Chief Shawn Freeman, but they declined to offer a response.