April 28, 2020
I want to talk to you today about uncertainty and ambiguity. When there is ambiguity, there is an inexactness, a being open to more than one interpretation. And when there is uncertainty, a situation in which something is not known, when they exist together in any aspect of our lives, this leads to fear, stress, anxiety, confusion, and frustration, especially as it relates to the COVID-19 Pandemic.
So let us begin with three things we do know:
First, under the Governor’s Executive Order 135, released five days ago, data showed that new cases of COVID-19 are still increasing, and there has NOT been a downward trajectory over the past 14 days. This is a graph from the NC Department of Health and Human Services—see graph. What the governor did not know was that the next two days would reveal the highest number of cases in a day—Friday April 24, with 444 new cases and on Saturday April 25, 490 new cases. In North Carolina, there were 9,415 cases and 337 deaths. Other metrics: Trajectory of hospitalizations is Not going down over 14 days and the trajectory of positive tests as a percentage of total tests over 14 days is NOT declining. The only metric that has been declining is the number of cases of COVID-19 like illnesses that have presented to emergency rooms. From these four metrics, you can see why the Governor extended the Stay at Home order through May 8th.
Secondly, Under Executive Order 135, “closure of restaurants for dine-in service and bars and closure of other close contact businesses are also extended through May 8.” He continues: “The health and safety of people in North Carolina must be our top priority. This plan provides a roadmap for us to begin easing restrictions in stages to push our economy forward.” I certainly agree with this approach. The data at this time does not support a change in the policies in particular with respect to the recent findings as previously listed. Cases are still rising in Brunswick County, but at a slower rate and much lower numbers. For Southport, it is part geography and part following the Governor’s Executive Orders and following the City of Southport’s Emergency Declaration. We are preventing the spread of this disease in our community by public health measures. As for opening our economy, it must be done in phases and I support opening as soon as possible. However, there must be adherence to guidelines that will allow our businesses to operate in a safe and protective manner. As per the Governor, with respect to businesses: Phase I: Stay at home order remains in place, people can leave home for commercial activity. Those retailers and services will need to implement social distancing, cleaning and other protocols. I will be involved in making sure that our economy opens and rebounds in a safe, phased in way, with public health measures in place. A robust economy, a busy “main street” is good for our city and our citizens.
Third, there has not been a clear and concise understanding of Executive Order 121 with respect to the opening of businesses that have been determined not essential. In my discussion with the NC Department of Revenue, Southport City Manager, Chris May, Southport City Attorney, Mike Isenberg, and in consultation with the Southport Board of Aldermen, I would like to announce the City of Southport Emergency Declaration Addendum (https://southportnc.org/city-of-southport-emergency-declaration-addendum/)
The health of our economy is important. My father was a merchant, he owned and operated a clothing store in my hometown of Roanoke Rapids, NC. It was a family business. We all worked in the store, including my mother, whom many of you in Southport knew. If she were alive and with us in Southport, she would really hate that I was still working in an ER right now, she really would not want me to be Mayor, and said she prayed that I would lose in 2015, but what would really devastate my sweet mother, besides the obvious despair and loss of life in this pandemic, is that it has affected the small businesses and restaurants in our village, many of them she enjoyed visiting and dining. My mother was a shrewd businesswoman and loved the atmosphere of a vibrant downtown. It is one of many important aspects of life she and my father instilled in me. But for now, for the health of our city and our citizens, businesses determined not essential must remain closed. We need these next eleven days to evaluate the data, the metrics, the trends, and if possible, especially if the trends are acceptable in our county and community, nothing would give me more pleasure than for our businesses to open in a responsible way as soon after May 8th as possible and we do so maybe in time for Mother’s Day on May 10th, in honor of my mother and all mothers or mother figures in our lives, who have worried about us and would be delighted with a gift or flowers or a take out dinner from one of our many wonderful shops and restaurants.
In prayerful anticipation of this day, and as your Mayor, as a doctor, as a public health advocate, I ask you to continue to Stay Home, Stay Safe and Stay Strong. And never forget, that by doing so, you will be the heroes that save lives by stopping the spread of this contagious and for some, deadly disease.
I want to thank all of the businesses who have adhered to the Governor’s and the City of Southport’s emergency declarations and my thanks to all the citizens of Southport for your compliance and also for your prayers, support and words of encouragement. And I in particular want to thank the doctors, nurses, and staff in our emergency department, and always my appreciation to the first responders of the City of Southport, all of the employees, staff, and elected officials, it is my hope that all of our efforts together will make a difference as our city moves forward in these rapidly changing and uncertain times.