Franklin County is returning to as close to normal as possible beginning Monday.
Derek Brown, county administrator/counselor, said the county will move into Phase 3 of the governor’s Ad Astra plan on Monday.
"Phase 3 is basically a reopening," Brown said during Wednesday’s county commission meeting. "All businesses, all events and all activities are allowed in phase 3. The one limitation is there is a 45-person mass gathering limit. That mass gathering limit will only apply if you can’t maintain a safe distance of 6 feet in between people."
Brown used an example of a baseball tournament at Orlis Cox where 500 people could attend, provided they maintain a 6-foot distance.
"The only time that limit comes into play is where in a building maintaining separation is not possible," he said.
Brown said summer events and activities can go on as scheduled provided organizers put a plan in place to keep the public safe.
"At this point — if we get into Phase 3 and for the duration of Phase 3 — there is not restrictions or anything prohibiting fairs from occurring," Brown said. "We are asking individuals responsible for those events work with the health department and Dr. Bud Ransom, in creating a plan to help maintain the health and safety of the patrons of those events."
Brown said that in the phase-out period, which is slated to begin June 22, there is not a limit on mass gatherings in the Ad Astra Plan.
"There is nothing that prevents us from putting one in place, if we think it is appropriate," Brown said. "The hope is we continue to squash this and those events are allowed to occur as intended. That is where we are going to be in the next couple of months.
"We are going to continue strongly encouraging social distancing and mask usage. It will not be completely like normal. I don’t know if we are going to see — if it continues to progress — a restriction on numbers or other heavy restrictions."
As of Wednesday morning, the county had recorded 35 positive cases of the coronavirus with 32 recoveries. There have been more than 1,150 negative tests, with several tests awaiting results.
Brown indicated county offices can resume normal hours and staffing.
"I am not requiring they do so," he said. "I have certain staff members working from home successfully. If it is the desire of their department heads to continue to work at home, I am certainly not going to rush them back.
"We have learned a lot about our operations during this pandemic. We learned that we are overstaffed in offices. We are going to look at that as we move forward in subsequent budget years. We have learned that certain departments can work from home and do so successfully."
The visitor’s center, which has been closed throughout the pandemic, will not reopen yet.
"We know coronavirus spreads via travel," Brown said. "The facility is ran by a group of volunteers, every single member of which, is part of a vulnerable population. It just seems like something that could lead to dire consequences, if we were to open it up back now."