April 7, 2020 

Good Afternoon,

The last time I spoke to you, I emphasized the importance of Southport Stay Home and I asked that you remember the famous words of Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz, “There’s no place like Home.” I am asking you again to follow this admonition to the letter and it is now time to build on this foundation.

In addition to Southport Stay Home, I am asking you to add to this, “Southport Stay Safe.” These are my recommendations as to how we accomplish this: We have discussed good hand washing, using hand sanitizer, cleaning surfaces, do not touch your face, social/physical distancing. We must continue these interventions to perfection. The CDC has recommended wearing a cloth mask or scarf when you do have to go out for essential things, again, the pharmacy, grocery store, restaurant take out. I ask all citizens to wear a cloth mask if you have to go out. There will be a link below on how to make your own face covering. And if you are out, please practice physical distancing. We must continue to embrace the Public Health measures that will help mitigate this COVID-19 Pandemic and the solution is MITIGATION by PHYSICAL DISTANCING. I have asked that all city parks and open areas be closed for any activity. You will notice the swings have been removed. We have closed the city pier. All city facilities are closed. City bathrooms are closed. We are taping off the city benches. Southport is NOT open for tourists. Only essential businesses should be open. Until there is a vaccine and there is testing to determine who of us have been exposed and now have immunity, mitigation is the only solution at this time, especially when this disease is expected to peak in our nation in the next 2—4 weeks.

The key is IMMUNITY!!! Until there is immunity, in public health terms, Herd or Community Immunity as defined: “a situation in which a sufficient proportion of a population is immune to an infectious disease –through vaccination and/or prior illness- to make its spread from person to person unlikely.” We obviously are not there yet. A vaccine is most likely 12 months away. At some point in the future a test will be available that will produce results within minutes, and this will help with detecting cases and assisting with identification, containment/isolation/quarantine and contact tracing. This is extremely important as this disease is a spectrum—80.9% have mild symptoms, 13.8% have severe symptoms and require hospitalization, and 4.7% are critical and require intensive care including intubation and ventilator support. Also, note the estimates are from 25% to 50% of those that have the disease are asymptomatic. It is an “Invisible Hurricane “in many ways.

And also note, that as I have mentioned to you before, Southport is an at-risk population due to age, pre-existing conditions, and some of our citizens are immune-compromised from chemotherapy and other immune-modulating drugs. I have a responsibility to you, and we have a responsibility to those most at risk and we have a responsibility to each other. There are going to be more cases and many in our nation will not survive. I do not want Southport or any city to be on that projection. As we move forward, we stay at home and we stay safe by mitigation—social /physical distancing. To accomplish this, urgent and assertive measures must be taken. Mitigation measures will preclude any use of city parks until it is determined safe to do so. This includes the cancellation of all summer events through Labor Day. We all have wonderful memories of these times from previous years, but in 2020, in the midst of the raging COVID-19 Pandemic, now is the time to halt the spread of this deadly disease.

I want to thank all members of Southport City Government, for their courageous efforts under these difficult times, from first responders, all employees, and all city staff. The work of the city continues, and I applaud them and the city manager for these efforts. I want to thank the many citizens including Sisters of Southport and Cape Fear Yacht Club, who have prepared meals each day and delivered them to our police department and our thanks to those who have taken food to our fire department. So many of our citizens, not only delivering food, but as noted in the Pilot, are making masks, and so many of you are so willing to volunteer to help us all get through these uncertain times. As your mayor, as a doctor, as a public health advocate, I am asking you to not only stay the course by staying at home but accentuate the ways in which you can attempt to stop the spread of this disease.

If you have to go out, wear a mask, do not gather in groups for any reason, social/physical distancing, and if you have symptoms, call first before you leave home. Southport Stay Safe and remember who you are staying home for and who you are staying safe for and that if you follow these public health measures, you will be among the heroes who save lives.

Mayor Joseph P. Hatem, MD, MPH