Gaston Co. Commission Chair Creates Confusion Over Stay-At-Home Order

GASTONIA, N.C. – Gaston County remains under the statewide stay-at-home order, despite confusion created by the County Commission Chair.

Tracy Philbeck announced the signing of an order reopening Gaston County, catching many by surprise.

“If you open up your nail salon, my wife will probably come. If you open up a restaurant, I will definitely come and eat,” Philbeck said, during a virtual town hall on Wednesday.

Philbeck, even going so far as to encourage people to defy the Governor’s stay-at-home order.

“That doesn’t mean the governor wouldn’t have the state police arrest you. I can’t stop that. That doesn’t mean that there wouldn’t be a consequence. But here’s what I would do. Let me know and I would be the first one arrested,” Philbeck said.

A morning news conference led to plenty of confusion.

Philbeck insinuated he planned to sign an order allowing restaurants and non-essential businesses to reopen at 5:00 on Wednesday evening.

“I hear a lot, well the county doesn’t have the authority. Well does the Governor have the authority to trump the United States Constitution?” Philbeck asked.

The actual document he signed states businesses have to defer to the Governor.

But that didn’t stop several from announcing a reopening, including a tattoo parlor and a Mexican restaurant before both had to backtrack.

State Health Director Dr. Mandy Cohen responded to the Commissioner during a news conference.

“You know, we’re in a crisis. And I think confusion is really, really damaging during a crisis,” Cohen said.

A Gaston County Spokesperson emphasized, despite what people may have heard, they must continue to follow the stay-at-home order and all law enforcement agencies in the county will be enforcing it.