March 5, 20201 City of Southport Community Update: Mayor’s Remarks

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

As I stated last time, we can immunize our way out of this pandemic. The number of daily cases in the United States have dropped dramatically. In January there were over 250,000 new cases reported per day to now, 64,000 new cases reported per day. In North Carolina, in January there were 5,000 new cases per day and now there recently were 1,200 new cases per day. This is significant progress.

In the United States, 77 million doses of the vaccine have been administered and 96 million doses have been delivered. Ten percent of the U.S. adult population have been fully immunized. In North Carolina, 2.4 million vaccine doses have been administered and in Brunswick County, 28, 600 first doses have been given and 15, 334 citizens in our county have completed the two immunization series. This is encouraging, but there is still much work to be done.

Even though the numbers are decreasing, there is over the last few days, a plateau, a leveling off in terms of the number of new COVID-19 cases and the total number of cases are still too many. We must continue public health mitigation measures while we continue to be vaccinated. What we must achieve is herd immunity, where at least 70 percent or more of our population has either been vaccinated or have protective antibodies from being infected with the coronavirus which provides short term immunity. The good news, vaccines are becoming more widely available, including the Johnson and Johnson one shot vaccine that was approved February 27, 2021 and which provides 100% protection against serious illness, hospitalization, and death. All of the vaccines, Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson and Johnson, are effective against the coronavirus and the mutant strains such as the UK B. 1.1.7. and the South African stain, that have been detected and are much more transmissible. Johnson and Johnson has shipped out four million doses of the one shot vaccine and 16 million doses should be available by the end of March. It is estimated that 100 million doses will be available by the end of May or early June. Again, now is not the time for states to ease the restrictions on the public health measures that have proven to help slow down the spread of disease and have helped to protect our population from COVID-19.

It takes time to ramp up a global vaccination program against a novel virus pandemic. I am proud of the resolve and the patience our citizens have shown in navigating their way in obtaining immunizations and appreciate the cooperative efforts of the Brunswick County Health Department, Novant Health, Dosher Memorial Hospital, our local elected officials, mayors and county commissioners, in assisting our citizens in obtaining immunizations.

As vaccines have become more available, the group eligibility has changed and more of our citizens are now eligible for the vaccine. Group 1-Health Care workers and Long Term Care residents and staff. The lives, careers, medicine as they knew it, for our health care workers has changed dramatically as they have been facing the coronavirus in person for over a year. Some losing their lives in caring for others. The stress has at times been overwhelming and I salute all who have worked the frontline, the doctors, nurses, and staff and our EMS teams who have been exposed nonstop to this potentially deadly and debilitating disease. Group 2—Older Adults, beginning at age 65. The percent of those who have died in North Carolina 83 % are 65 years of age and older. This is also a national trend, and when you include age 50 and older, 96 % of the deaths have occurred in this age group. Southport is and continues to be an at risk population. Group 3 –Frontline Essential Workers is now active and eligible for vaccination. This includes teachers, police officers, fire fighters, food and industrial workers, from manufacturing to restaurant workers and grocery store employees. U. S. Postal workers, child care, transportation, social and public health workers, and others. Group 4—Adults at high risk for exposure and increased risk of severe disease, vaccinations begin March 24th. And Group 5—Everyone Else not included in the previous four groups and who are younger and do not have underlying medical comorbidities. The goal is to have vaccines available for every adult by the end of May and for all vaccines to be administered as soon as logistically possible. To obtain a vaccine, go to The blue box on the top right –“Schedule a COVID-19 Vaccine Appointment Here”. Click on this and it will take you to “Welcome to Novant Health” COVID-19 Vaccine Preregistration.” This should be an easy access to obtaining your appointment. There also is the private sector—Walgreens.Com—to obtain immunizations as many of our citizens have done.

We are now under Executive Order 195 and some restrictions have been lifted per Governor Cooper. In terms of occupational restrictions, there is 30 % capacity and 50 % capacity. There is now a 30 % capacity for bars and movie theaters not to exceed a 250 person limit. Fifty Percent capacity in restaurants, gyms, museums—such as our Maritime Museum, aquariums , retailers, salons, personal care parlors. And for indoor arenas with 5000 seats or more, 15% capacity exempting the 250 person limit. I am not saying you should go to the ACC Tournament, only that seating and tickets are now possible. The 9:00 PM curfew has been lifted and alcohol sales are available until 11:00 PM. Which is good for the locals, the tourist industry, and the restaurants and bars here in Southport.

The COVID-19 pandemic is not over. It is improving. There have been 28 million cases reported in the United States and over a half million deaths. Daily reported cases have declined but we are seeing a plateau, a leveling off. We cannot pull back now. Wear your mask, watch and wait—physical distancing at least six feet, and wash your hands. Sign up for your vaccine. Protect yourself, your family, your friends, and your community. “Take your best shot—Get Your COVID-19 Vaccine.” And by doing so and by continuing the public health measures I have recommended, we will recover from this pandemic and you will be among some of the heroes who have helped to save lives.

Stay Well, Stay Safe, and Stay Southport Strong