COVID-19 Update, Mayor’s Remarks

This is Dr. Joe Pat Hatem, Mayor of the City of Southport. I would like to talk to you today and give you an update on the COVID-19 Pandemic.

I would like to begin with two quotes:  From JAMA-the Journal of the American Medical Association, from an interview with the Director of the CDC in July:  the fall and winter “are going to be probably one of the most difficult times we’ve experienced in public health”.  And from a public health expert from the White House Task Force: “As we approach the fall and winter months, it is important that we get the baseline level of infections much lower than they are now.”

The number of cases per day in the United States has been staggering, some days, over 100,000 cases per day.  The above mentioned quote was at a time when the daily cases were at 40,000 cases per day. There are multiple reasons for the increase.  We are more open in terms of schools, colleges, universities, businesses, movie theaters, arenas, outdoor bars and restaurants. We are in Phase 3 in North Carolina which allows for more activities.  We have been gathering indoors and outdoors in larger numbers.  Younger people are being infected, many asymptomatic and are a vector for spread of this highly efficient transmissible virus. We are now at the convergence of cold weather, where cold, dry air, allows easier transmission of droplets, where we will do more activities inside and the convergence of cold and flu season with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic—which is not going away any time soon!

In North Carolina, on November 6th, there were 2,908 cases documented and the state seven day average of new COVID-19 cases is 2,405. There have been 294,860 cases documented in North Carolina and 4,615 deaths. That would be the entire population of Southport plus 1,000.  And for every death, there are loved ones who grieve.   In Brunswick County, the last two weeks of August, 88 cases. In September, the first two weeks, 108 cases, the last two weeks, 134 cases.  In October, the first two weeks, 298 cases, and the second two weeks, 276 cases of COVID-19.  The numbers are rising and again, this pandemic is far from over. We must continue to embrace, even more so, the public health mitigation approach, if we want to save lives, keep our economy open, and not overwhelm our health care system which in many areas of our country is approaching the breaking point of capacity.  Think of the doctors, nurses, and staff that are fighting to save lives of critically ill patients and at the same time not to contract this at times fatal disease.  Think of all the first responders, paramedics, police, fire fighters and rescue personnel who risk their lives during the transport and emergency care of COVID-19 patients. We can do better as a city, as a county, as a state and as a nation in controlling this disease. And we also now know that COVID-19 can have long term effects on our health and can turn into a chronic disease with multiple symptoms such as fatigue and continued breathing difficulties. We must do our part! This is a behavior driven disease.  Wear a mask/facial covering when you are out in the community. Wait and practice physical/social distancing, at least six feet.  Wash your hands, good hand hygiene is important. Avoid crowds, it is still “Safer at Home” especially if you are at high risk whether from age or underlying health issues and Southport is an at risk population due to age and comorbidities. It will take all of the above public health mitigation measures and continued testing, case identification and isolation, contact tracing, and quarantine for those exposed to known cases.  There is some good news, mortality rates are lower in part to more knowledge and clinical experience in treating the disease and drugs such as Remdesivir and dexamethasone, and antiviral and an anti-inflammatory respectively. In data from a clinical trial recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine, “Remdesivir was superior to placebo in shortening the time to recovery in adults who were hospitalized with COVID-19 and had evidence of lower respiratory tract infection.” It was also announced that the vaccine trial by Pfizer has shown to be 90 percent effective from early data in the clinical trial. And a vaccine will be available in 2021. This is very encouraging, but it is not the final “Jeopardy” answer.

Again, COVID-19 is a highly transmissible upper respiratory viral disease that travels through the air in droplets. Therefore, LET’S KEEP OUR DROPLETS TO OURSELVES!  Wear facial covering, physical distance, avoid crowds, wash your hands, get your flu shot, and outdoor activities are better than indoors. Decrease the risk for you, your family, and your friends of becoming ill from this disease. If we all do these simple but important public health measures, especially facial covering and  as your Mayor, as a doctor, as a public health advocate, I am imploring that you remain vigilant, and if you do so, you will be among the heroes that help to save lives and to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

Stay Safe, Stay Well, and Stay Southport Strong