Harold’s Blog: Stay at Home Orders, Covid-19 Updates and More

Cary, NC — This was the hardest week I have had in my 12+ years as mayor. And what’s scary is that I will probably be saying that again in the near future.

Monday – Wake County Mayors Talk Covid-19

Monday included calls to the town manager and chief strategy officer. In addition, all the Wake County Mayors held a tele-meeting Monday night. These continued each night through Thursday. Monday’s call was mostly what the towns were doing individually to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Tuesday – Considerations of a Stay at Home Order

Tuesday I participated in an update from the Governor on what was happening at the state level. I was disappointed that the state was not moving forward with a Stay at Home order.

Tuesday night the mayors talked about the county moving forward with a stay at home order and issues with the order. We debated whether to participate in the county’s order and what should be in the order with four municipalities on the fence. Most of the concern was with enforcement. Since it is the policy of the Wake County mayors not to take action unless we unanimously agree, we did not move forward with a recommendation on Tuesday.

Later Tuesday night I had a conversation with the town manager, and we decided we would plan to move forward with a Stay at Home order. In discussions with the county, we found they were working on this order.

Wednesday – Discussing SAH Order with Wake County

Wednesday morning, I taped a Public Service Announcement of a Stay at Home order to be used when the county moved forward. See the recording.

Wednesday evening the Wake Mayors discussed what to recommend to the county about the contents of Stay at Home order. Discussions included whether golf or tennis should be allowed as recreation, enforcement, and whether 10 or 0 should be the number allowed to gather keeping safe distance. An example used was neighbors talking to each other six feet away or more would violate the ordinance if it were at 0. Eight of twelve mayors agreed with 10 but the county went with 0 anyway.

Thursday – Restrictions and Exceptions of the Order

Thursday Wake County announced the Stay at Home order with all municipalities agreeing. Here is a list of restrictions and exceptions listed in the Wake County proclamation:

Movement or travel of persons in Wake County on and about public places including streets, roadways, and property shall be restricted except for the purposes of Essential Activities. This shall mean that each Wake County resident remains in his/her/their household or residential living unit except as required or permitted for Essential Activities.

Essential Activities

For the purpose of this Proclamation, Essential Activities shall mean those activities or tasks essential to the support, health, safety and welfare of Wake County residents, including:

  • Engaging in activities or performing tasks essential to their health and safety, or to the health and safety of their family or household members (including, but not limited to, household pets and other animals that are housed at the household or residential unit where they reside ), such as, by way of example only and without limitation, obtaining medical supplies or medication, visiting a health care professional, or obtaining supplies they need to work from home; or
  • Obtaining necessary services or supplies for themselves and their family or household members, or to deliver those services or supplies to others, such as, by way of example only and without limitation, canned food, dry goods, fresh fruits and vegetables, pet supply, fresh meats, fish, and poultry, and any other household consumer products, and products necessary to maintain the safety, sanitation, and essential operation of residences; or
  • Obtaining takeout food or beverages from restaurants, other food, beverage or dining establishments, or food courts, pursuant to Section 10 of this Proclamation; or
  • Obtaining goods or services from essential retail businesses, as described in Section 10 of this Proclamation; or
  • Seeking medical attention, essential social services, or assistance from law enforcement or emergency services; or
  • Visiting family or other individuals needing assistance with whom the resident has a close personal relationship, such as those for whom the individual is a caretaker or partner; or
  • Reporting to, or performing, their job, pursuant to Section 10 of this Proclamation; or
  • Walking, running, operating a wheelchair, hiking, golfing, walking household pets, recreating in a public park, or engaging in outdoor activities with immediate family members, caretakers, household members, or partners while following best social distancing practices with other individuals, including staying six feet apart; or
  • Caring for a family member or household pet in another household; or
  • Traveling to return to a place of residence from outside the County; or
  • Traveling to return to their place of residence outside the County; or
  • Traveling at the direction of law enforcement or other authorized government official as described in North Carolina Gen. Stat. 166A, including the transport of children pursuant to a custody agreement.

Individuals experiencing homelessness are exempt from this Section but are strongly urged to obtain shelter. Governmental and other entities are strongly urged to make such shelter available as soon as possible and to the maximum extent practicable (and to use COVID-19 risk mitigation practices in their operation).

Essential Travel and Exemptions

Additionally, for purposes of this Proclamation, individuals may leave their residence to work for or obtain services at any “Healthcare Operations” as described in Section 10 of this Proclamation.

For purposes of this Proclamation, individuals may leave their residence to provide any services or perform any work necessary to the operations and maintenance of “Essential Infrastructure,” as described in Section 10 of this Proclamation and as identified by the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) as work performed by the Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce, provided that they carry out those services or that work in compliance with social distancing requirements as defined in Section 12 of this Proclamation to the extent possible.

For purposes of this Proclamation, any individual performing or accessing “Essential Governmental Functions” is exempt. Essential Government Functions shall mean all services provided by the Government or Government contractors and needed to ensure the continuing operation of Government agencies, whether federal, state, or local, to provide for the support, health, safety and welfare of the public, including ABC stores under the purview of the North Carolina Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission.

All Essential Governmental Functions shall be performed in compliance with social distancing requirements as defined in Section 12 of this Proclamation to the extent possible. All first responders, emergency management personnel, emergency dispatchers, court personnel, and law enforcement personnel are categorically exempt from this Proclamation.

People with medical conditions, regardless of age, that put them at higher risk of serious complications should they get COVID-19, other than health care workers and other essential providers, should avoid leaving their homes to the extent possible except as necessary to seek medical care.

All public and private gatherings of any number of people, including non-Wake County residents, occurring outside a single household or residential unit are prohibited, except for the purposes expressly permitted in Section 1 of this Proclamation. Nothing in this Proclamation prohibits the gathering of members of a household or residential unit.

Individuals who must travel pursuant to this Proclamation that use public transportation should do so only if they have no other feasible choice. Individuals who ride public transportation should abide by social distancing practices, including making all efforts to stand or sit six feet away from other riders and frequently use sanitizing products. Nothing shall be construed to limit access to public transportation for Essential Activities.

When in public, individuals must practice social distancing and stay six feet apart whenever practicable, excluding immediate family members, caretakers, household members, or partners. All facilities, services, operations and businesses not providing services identified as Essential Activities, Essential Government Functions, or Critical Infrastructure are closed.

Essential Businesses

Facilities, services, operations and businesses, listed in this section below are excluded from this closing directive and may remain open, provided that they adhere to social distancing practices set forth in Section 12 of this Proclamation. All retail businesses providing services identified as Essential Activities must, wherever practicable, provide pickup services outside or adjacent to their stores for goods ordered in advance online or by phone. Additionally, online and telephonic delivery services are permitted for any retail business not exempted below, to the extent the business is authorized to operate an online or telephonic delivery service under existing law.

CISA Critical Infrastructure Workers as identified in the March 19, 2020, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Cybersecurity Infrastructure & Security Agency (CISA), Memorandum on Identification of Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers During COVID-19 Response. All workers and professions identified in the CISA Memorandum are exempt;

Healthcare Operations including hospitals, clinics, dentists, pharmacies, licensed health care professionals, pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, physical therapy businesses, medical supply manufacturers, distributors, and retailers, and other healthcare facilities, healthcare suppliers and supply chain providers, home healthcare service providers, mental and behavioral healthcare providers, medical researchers, laboratories engaging in testing or assessments related to human health, or any related and/or ancillary healthcare services. “Healthcare Operations” also includes veterinary care and all healthcare services provided to animals. This exemption shall be construed broadly to avoid any impacts to the delivery of healthcare, broadly defined. “Healthcare Operations” does not include fitness and exercise gyms, massage and bodywork therapy, spas, salons and similar facilities;

Commercial and residential construction professions and trades, including but not limited to contractors, engineers, architects, surveyors, suppliers and manufacturers, repairs and renovation specialists, provided social distancing practices are used as outlined in Section

Additionally, essential infrastructure construction, construction of housing (in particular affordable housing or housing for individuals experiencing homelessness), airport operations, water, sewer, gas, electrical, oil refining, roads and highways, public transportation, solid waste collection and removal, internet, and telecommunications systems (including the provision of essential global, national, and local infrastructure for computing services, business infrastructure, communications, and web-based services);

Grocery stores, certified farmers’ markets, farm and produce stands, supermarkets, food banks, convenience stores, and other establishments engaged in the retail sale of canned food, dry goods, fresh fruits and vegetables, pet supply, fresh meats, fish, and poultry, and any other household consumer products (such as cleaning and personal care products). This includes stores that sell groceries and sell other non-grocery products, and products necessary to maintaining the safety, sanitation, and essential operation of residences;

  • Food cultivation, including farming, livestock, and fishing;
  • Businesses, non-profits, and organizations that provide food, shelter, goods, social services, and other necessities of life for economically disadvantaged or otherwise needy individuals;
  • Facilities, services, operations and retail businesses capable of utilizing a workforce working solely remotely (telework);
  • Newspapers, television, radio, and other media services;
  • Gas stations and transportation related businesses, including auto-supply shops, auto-repair shops, auto sales, bike shops, and equipment for such businesses;
  • Banks, insurance, and related financial institutions;
  • Hardware and supply stores;
  • Plumbers, electricians, heating and air conditioning specialists, exterminators, custodial, towing services and other service providers who provide services that are necessary to maintaining the safety, sanitation, and essential operation of residences, Essential Activities, and exempt businesses;
  • Landscapers, lawn maintenance, foresters, and related professions that are able to conduct their business outside and without public interaction;
  • Businesses providing mailing and shipping services, including post office boxes;
  • Educational institutions—including public and private K-12 schools, colleges, and universities—for purposes of facilitating distance learning or performing essential functions, provided that social distancing of six-feet per person is maintained to the greatest extent possible;
  • Faith organizations and institutions for the purpose of providing online distribution, audio or visual broadcasting of services providing only minimal staff, required for said broadcast or distribution, are present and implement social distancing practices in accordance with Section 12 of this Proclamation;
  • Laundromats, dry cleaners, and laundry service providers;
  • Restaurants and other facilities that prepare and serve food, but only for delivery or carry out. Schools and other entities that typically provide free food services to students or members of the public may continue to do so under this Proclamation on the condition that the food is provided to students or members of the public on a pick-up and take-away basis only. Schools and other entities that provide food services under this exemption shall not permit the food to be eaten at the site where it is provided, or at any other gathering site;
  • Businesses that supply products needed for people to work from home;
  • Businesses that supply other exempt businesses with the support or supplies necessary to operate;
  • Businesses that ship or deliver groceries, food, goods or services directly to residences;
  • Airport workers, airlines, taxis, and other private transportation providers providing transportation services necessary for Essential Activities defined in Section1 of this Proclamation and other purposes expressly authorized in this Proclamation;
  • Home-based care for seniors, adults, or children;
  • Residential facilities which includes hotels, motels, apartment complexes, shared rental units, dormitories and shelters for seniors, adults, and children;
  • Professional services, such as legal services, accounting services, process servers, insurance services, and notary services, when necessary to assist in compliance with legally mandated activities;
  • Professional real estate services, such as realtors, appraisers, notary services, title insurers, inspectors;
  • Funeral homes, providers of mortuary services, crematoriums, and cemeteries, as well as individuals or entities engaged in the proper recovery, burial, or disposal of human remains;
  • Essential Governmental Functions;
  • Government contractors (including any entities that do business with government entities) that are not otherwise excepted from the restrictions of this Proclamation, to the extent that their work is necessary to conduct or complete their work for government entities;
  • Any entities to the extent that they employ workers identified by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security,
  • Cybersecurity Infrastructure & Security Agency (CISA) as part of the Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce;
  • Childcare facilities providing services that enable employees exempted from the provisions of this Proclamation of
  • Emergency Restrictions to work as permitted. To the extent possible, childcare facilities must operate under the following conditions:
  • Childcare must be carried out in stable groups in a space allowing, at a minimum, 56 square feet per person (“stable” means that the same persons of children and staff are in the same group each day);
    children shall not change from one group to another;
  • If more than one group of children is cared for at one facility, each group shall be in a separate room. Groups shall not mix with each other; and childcare providers shall remain solely with one group of children.
  • Services engaged in the business of testing for, cleaning up, managing, or disposing of hazardous materials or substances; and
  • Any business or entities identified as essential by the federal government or the State of North Carolina.

Performing Minimum Basic Operations

For the purposes of this Proclamation, business operators may perform “Minimum Basic Operations”, detailed below, provided owners, operators and employees comply with social distancing practices, to the extent possible, while carrying out such operations. Minimum Basic Operations are the least necessary activities to maintain:

  • The value of the business’s inventory;
  • Preserve the condition of the business’s physical plant and equipment;
  • Ensure security, process payroll and employee benefits;
  • Related functions and activities to facilitate employees of the business being able to continue to work remotely from their residences or alternate work location.

Social Distancing Parameters

For purposes of this Proclamation, social distancing practices shall include, to the extent possible:

  • Maintaining at least six-foot social distancing from other individuals;
  • Washing hands with soap and water (especially if hands are soiled) for at
    least twenty seconds as frequently as possible or using hand sanitizer;
  • Covering coughs or sneezes (into the sleeve, elbow or tissue, not hands);
  • Regularly cleaning high-touch surfaces; and
  • Not shaking hands.

Visitations Prohibited at Nursing and Other Care Facilities

In accordance with N.C. Executive Order 120, visitation at skilled nursing facilities, adult care homes, family care homes, mental health group homes and intermediate care facilities for individuals with intellectual disabilities is prohibited, except as permitted in Section 1.

  • Nothing in this Proclamation shall be construed to limit, prohibit, or restrict in any way the provision of health care, medical services or emergency services to members of the public.
  • Nothing in this Proclamation shall be construed to limit, prohibit, or restrict in any way access to essential services for low-income residents, including but not limited to food banks.
  • Nothing in this Proclamation shall be construed to limit, prohibit, or restrict in any way the operations of newspapers, television, radio, and other media services.
  • Nothing in this Proclamation shall be construed to limit, prohibit, or restrict in any way the operations of law enforcement agencies.
  • Nothing in this Proclamation shall be construed to limit, prohibit, or restrict in any way the operations of the state or federal government, or the movement of state or federal officials in Wake County while acting in their official capacity.

The important take away from the Stay at Home order is that we need to stay at home as much as possible. At this point, we are still allowed to go outside and recreate which is important for mental health as much as physical health. But you MUST MAINTAIN SOCIAL DISTANCINGAT ALL TIMES!

Friday – NC Governor Issues State-Wide SAH Order

Friday’s only activities included my ongoing conversations with the town manager and staff, and the Governor’s Stay at Home order. I did go out to recreate at noon. After my exercise, I was talking with a person who was concerned about their job (we were at least ten feet from each other) when someone went by in a golf cart videoing me and said “There’s the mayor. The mayor of Cary. You will be getting a call from the Governor you @#*hole.”

While I am used to the occasional nasty comments some people are not.

We must remember to be kind to each other! In a crisis, we all need each other and need to work together. That is the Cary way and why Cary is one of the greatest places on earth.

Later Friday the Governor finally gave a Stay at Home order for the entire state. This was good news and I hope will make an impact. There were some contradictions with the Wake County Stay at Home. The strictest of the two will apply.

Some question why these Stay at Home orders are needed. We are seeing cases doubling every three and a half days. If this continues we will overrun the hospital beds and ICU units by mid-April. If we can change the doubling rate to eight days then it would be mid-June before we overrun the hospital beds and ICU units.

At the 3 ½ rate:

March 24: 75 cases, 11 hospitalized, 3 critical cases

March 27: 150 cases, 23 hospitalized, 7 critical cases

March 31: 300 cases, 45 hospitalized, 14 critical cases

April 3: 600 cases, 90 hospitalized, 27 critical cases

April 7: 1,200 cases, 180 hospitalized, 54 critical cases

April 10: 2,400 cases, 360 hospitalized, 108 critical cases

April 14: 4,800 cases, 720 hospitalized, 216 critical cases

April 17: 9,600 cases, 1,440 hospitalized, 432 critical cases

April 21: 19,200 cases, 2,880 hospitalized, 864 critical cases

April 24: 38,400 cases, 5,760 hospitalized, 1,728 critical cases

April 28: 76,800 cases, 11,520 hospitalized, 3,456 critical cases

May 1: 153,600 cases, 23,040 hospitalized, 6,912 critical cases

If you look at https://www.ncdhhs.gov/covid-19-case-count-nc you can see we are exceeding the case count and hospitalized at this point.

Town Manager’s Report

The town manager, Sean Stegall’s report for this week included:

Manager’s Message to Council

The bulk of my time this week has been dedicated to working with our state, regional and county partners on the COVID-19 response. I am in constant communication crafting the path forward in minimizing the effects of the virus in our community. It has been an honor to watch the various groups work together on proclamations protecting the health of everyone in Wake County.

Over the last three years, we have worked hard on building relationships with neighboring municipalities, and those relationships have been fundamental in our emergency response in the last two weeks. Emergency preparedness is a strain on our day-to-day activities, but it is important that we continue to help our neighbors during times of need.

I wanted to share the following email from Drew Havens, Manager of Apex, which reinforces the importance of our partnership with surrounding communities and is another example of how proud I am of our team.

Sean:

Once again, proof of how pleased I am that you are leading the staff for the Town of Cary and that you have surrounded yourself with a great team. Your folks, again, went above and beyond to help us out even in trying times. This is from our Fire Chief:

I am very pleased to inform you that as of yesterday, all 16 of our fire cadets have successfully completed their firefighter, Haz Mat and EMT certifications. As of today, they meet the minimum requirements to perform as firefighters for our department. With only one week left in the academy, our delivery agency, Wake Tech closed. For a few days, this situation made it seemingly impossible for our cadets to complete the final two certification classes.

However, after seeking assistance from our partners with Cary Fire, we were able to identify a solution. Being a delivery agency for certification classes in NC, Cary agreed to “host” the final two classes for our cadets (and Wake County cadets) so our personnel could achieve their certifications. That was carried out this week, and as of 5 PM yesterday, all 16 Apex Fire Cadets completed their requirements for their firefighter certifications. Because of the spirit of cooperation and support displayed by the Town of Cary, specifically the Cary Fire Department, we will be able to place our second ladder truck in service as planned.

I am tremendously proud of our relationship with our CAM partners and this is another example of how we benefit from our level of cooperation. I also appreciate the support and leadership of Public Safety Director Alan Cain, Fire Chief Mike Cooper and Captain John Boswell for making this happen for us!

We were in a tough spot, with 16 cadets that were close to the finish line, but not able to be on shift. Your folks, working with ours, came up with a solution, and the result is that we can put another fire truck on the road next week. This also gives us more “bench depth” if we end up with COVID exposure in our Fire Department.

Thank you just doesn’t seem to be enough, but please express my heartfelt appreciation to your team for finding a way to make this happen.

Thank you my friend!

Drew

Thank you for your continued support of our staff. I am immensely proud of how adaptable our staff continues to be during this time.

State & National COVID-19 Updates, Resources

According to Metro Mayors, 4 million North Carolinians are currently covered by a shelter-in-place/stay-at-home order, with more municipalities in the process of implementing similar measures.

Governor Cooper’s office asked Attorney General Stein for advice regarding electronic council meetings. The response from the Attorney General is advisory only to aid municipal attorneys in their approach.

This week the Senate and House passed the third coronavirus-related bill, with nearly $2 trillion aimed at stimulus measures, including relief for both private and public sectors. President Trump is expected to sign the bill.

Operational Framework & Update

On Monday, I met virtually with all Department Directors to discuss our emergency and internal operations during this unprecedented time. I asked Deputy Town Manager/Chief Development Officer Russ Overton, to lead an operational framework team for the purpose of providing organizational structure and communication for non-emergency operations during this time.

We expect this weekly format to run for at least 90 days. Please take a moment to review the weekly operational report.

While you will continue to receive updates from Allan Cain about activities in the EOC, we plan to provide non-emergency operational updates via the Weekly Report format as our goal is to keep Town operations running as smoothly as possible during this unprecedented time.

Additional Information of Interest

I’ve found the following articles to be particularly interesting in light of our nation’s current conditions and I wanted to share with you for your reading pleasure.

How Bad Times Bring Out the Best in People– Harvard Business Review
That Discomfort You’re Feeling is Grief – Harvard Business Review
How the Pandemic Will End – The Atlantic

Focus on the Positive

As I mentioned this has been a very tough week. I am absolutely heartbroken at the loss of life, serious illness, and the masses of people who have lost their jobs or businesses. Needlessly to say making a choice between allowing an environment where someone could die or crush someone’s business and eliminate jobs is a lose-lose decision. It has weighed heavily on me and many in my position. Please know that I am praying for all that has been impacted.

While this post has been doom and gloom it is important for us to focus on the positive. Azaleas and other flowers are in bloom. Take a walk and enjoy them. If you can’t I will enclose a picture to CaryCitizen of my azalea garden. Have a blessed week and be safe!

Well, that is all for this week. My next post will be on Sunday, April 5th.  Although I have Facebook and Twitter accounts those are not the best means of communicating with me. Please send all Town of Cary questions or comments to Harold.Weinbrecht@townofcary.org and email personal comments to augustanat@mindspring.com.


From the blog of Cary Mayor Harold Weinbrecht. Featured image from the official Facebook page of Governor Cooper, Garden image by Harold Weinbrecht, Town Manager photo by Ashley Kairis.