Mayor’s Update Transcript: May 18th, 2021

This is Dr. Joe Pat Hatem, Mayor of the City of Southport.

I would like to talk to you today concerning the recent changes in guidelines by the CDC on the wearing of masks.  These new guidelines include people who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. These individuals no longer have to wear masks inside or outside, nor do they have to stay six feet away from others.

Does this mean we can throw away our masks?  No!

Masks are required on public transportation; in hospitals, nursing homes, and other health care settings; certain businesses and workplaces; and children in school are to wear a mask. There is some confusion from this abrupt reversal of two of the most effective public health measures—masks and physical distancing—for stopping the spread of a virus that is still infecting 33,000 people in the United States every day and taking the lives of 610 people per day on average as of May 16th. These are decreasing trends but still not the goal of 1000 cases per day and 100 deaths per day which is what is tolerated during a typical flu season. Compared to the over 200,000 cases per day in December, January, and February, this is a major improvement, shows the vaccine is effective, and we can immunize our way out of this pandemic.

With respect to vaccination data:  Americans fully vaccinated: 37%. This is far from the seventy to eighty percent required for herd immunity and does not take into account that children ages 12 and older are not fully vaccinated and that there is no vaccine available yet for children below the age of 12; that again, 63% of the United States is not fully vaccinated; and that there are millions of Americans that even though they are vaccinated, have altered immune systems—whether from chemotherapy or immune-modulating drugs—or from diseases or conditions such as diabetes, obesity, kidney disease, or at risk because of age, and the fact that the vaccine is not 100% effective as we have seen the news report that nine people in the New York Yankees organization, three coaches, five staff members, and one player, although fully vaccinate, are COVID-19 positive.

So what does this mean for Southport and my recommendations for our city?

Southport is a compassionate, respectful, creative, and science-minded community.  When we are outside, there is no requirement for mask wearing as transmission is extremely low.  When we are indoors, the transmission rate is 19 times that of the transmission rate outdoors.  There are still 63% of the people in the U.S. who are not immunized.  There are millions of people in the U.S. who are immunocompromised including in Southport. We have a large number of essential workers who will be exposed to the vaccinated and unvaccinated and there is no way to determine that status.

As your Mayor, as a doctor, as a public health advocate, after reviewing the data, the science, the CDC public health guidelines, it is my recommendation that we RESPECT our local businesses and restaurants who want to continue the indoor mask mandate in order to protect their workers, their customers and diners, as they have been doing prior to the CDC announcement.

We have adapted and evolved as the pandemic has changed due to the effectiveness of the vaccine.  We are promoting every day, “Take Your Best Shot”, get vaccinated.

There is a COVID-19 pop-up clinic on May 26th, 3pm to7pm on the deck of the Southport Community Building.

As we continue our campaign “Steady As She Goes,” we recommend a more measured approach on wearing masks indoor when requested by our businesses, our restaurants, and our city with respect to city facilities. These recommendations are out of respect to our local business community and due to the science, the data, not everyone is immunized, then there are those of our citizens still at risk from COVID-19, and the data does not support the total reversal and elimination of public health measures.

Again, as your Mayor, as a doctor, as a public health advocate, I ask that you respect the requests of our local businesses that choose to maintain the mask requirement indoors and that you embrace the respect and compassion you have shown each other during this pandemic, and by following these recommendations, you will be among the heroes that helped to prevent disease and to save lives.

Stay Safe, Stay Well, Stay Southport Strong, and Steady As She Goes

Joseph P. Hatem, MD, MPH

Mayor of the City of Southport