September 10, 2020

This is Mayor Joe Pat Hatem, I would like to talk to you today concerning where we are with respect to the COVID – 19 Pandemic.

Governor Cooper announced that the state of North Carolina would transition to Safer at Home, Phase 2.5, Executive Order 163, on the easing of restrictions. What are the pertinent changes? Mass gatherings will increase to 25 indoors and 50 outdoors. Museums and Aquariums can open at 50% capacity. I am looking forward to returning to the N.C. Maritime Museum here in Southport and the N.C. Museum of History in Raleigh. Of note, all city facilities will remain closed. Fitness and competitive physical facilities—open at 30% capacity. It also states that all employers in North Carolina are strongly encouraged to provide face coverings to their employees. Playgrounds will allowed to be open, however at this point in time, for a number of reasons related to the transmission of the coronavirus, I have decided to keep city playgrounds closed through 2020.

What remains the same? Bars, night clubs, movie theaters, amusement parks and other entertainment facilities remain closed. Face coverings are still required in public per the executive order, as well as, they are mandated by the City of Southport.

In terms of facial coverings, I would like to share with you a commentary in the recent issue of the New England Journal of Medicine. It suggests that by wearing a mask, it allows for protection in terms of the amount of viral inoculum, viral load, viral exposure, we receive, may lead to some immunity. It is not a proven theory but a hypothesis based on science. It is another one of the reasons why facial covering is so important in reducing the spread of this disease. From the article: “Universal masking could become a form of immunity (the deliberate inoculation—introduction of an antigenic substance or vaccine into the body to produce an immune response to a specific disease) — that would generate immunity and thereby slow the spread of the virus in the U.S. and elsewhere, as we await a vaccine.”

Masks help to stop the transmission of the disease through reducing the exposure to viral laden respiratory droplets, and according to the hypothesis above, this lower level of exposure may create some immunity that will lessen the severity of COVID-19. To quote again from the article: “Recent data have led to the hypothesis that facial mask covering may reduce the severity of disease among people who do become infected. This possibility is consistent with a long-standing theory of viral pathogenesis, which holds that the severity of the disease is proportional to the viral inoculum received.”

UNTIL THERE IS A SAFE AND EFFECTIVE VACCINE, this simple measure of facial covering is one of the best public health mitigation measures, along with avoiding crowds and mass gatherings, good hand hygiene, physical distancing, and safer at home.

As your Mayor, as a doctor, as a public health advocate, I ask that you embrace the science, embrace this act of patriotism and respect, follow these public health measures, do everything you can to reduce the risk of transmission and of developing this highly contagious, viral, respiratory disease that has a high morbidity and mortality in an at risk population such as Southport. If you follow this advice, you will be among the heroes, who will help to save lives.

Stay Well, Stay Strong, and Stay #SouthportSafe