Outer Banks locals welcoming non-resident property owners back after ban due to COVID-19

NAGS HEAD, NORTH CAROLINA, UNITED STATES - 2016/02/09: Dunes and ocean at Cape Hatteras National Seashore. (Photo by John Greim/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Residents of a coastal North Carolina county stood on a roadside on Monday wearing masks and holding signs welcoming non-resident property owners back to the area after they were banned because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

About 20 people wearing masks and holding handmade signs alongside U.S. Highway 158 greeted motorists, The Virginian-Pilot of Norfolk reported. A plane carrying a welcome banner flew overhead.

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The show of hospitality marked another step toward reopening the tourist season on the Outer Banks, with Dare County officials starting to allow nonresident property owners back into the county after weeks of checkpoints. Currituck County opened to nonresidents two weeks ago.

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“It definitely won’t be business as usual, but if we can just get it started again, it gives everybody an opportunity for survival,” said John Harris, owner of Kitty Hawk Kites, who held a sign that said “Happy to see you.”

Harris laid off about 90 percent of a work force that grows to more than 400 in the summer. A federal paycheck protection loan allowed him to rehire most of them, he said.

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In the hopes of drawing out more tourists this summer, the Outer Banks Visitors Bureau has launched a new “Summer of Glove” campaign complete with a YouTube video featuring iconic scenes of beaches and the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. The Hatteras Island Business Association also started a Facebook page that welcomes property owners and visitors.