The New Bern Area Chamber of Commerce is joining the county board of commissioners in asking Governor Roy Cooper to relax COVID-19-related restrictions on Craven County.

In a letter submitted to the New Bern Sun Journal, Chamber of Commerce leaders said the following:

As we are all well-aware, the COVID-19 pandemic is a serious public health crisis. Fortunately, the New Bern area responded strongly and appropriately when asked to do so in mid-late March.

Under direction from our leadership, New Bern residents have diligently shuttered their businesses, closed their schools, and practiced social distancing, all in the name of public health. Everyone accepted that these drastic measures were needed to stem the spread of the virus in our community.

For this, all of us should be thankful in knowing that we are flattening the curve and have hopefully avoided the worst of this pandemic.

Unfortunately, this has also put a great strain on our economic and mental well being. Over the past week, the New Bern Area Chamber of Commerce has solicited feedback from our members regarding the reopening of the area’s economy.

While members are ready to reopen, they also understand that to do so would require that they strictly enforce social distancing and, in some cases, limit the number of customers in their facilities. They understand that they will have to take on additional burdens of cleaning and sanitizing their facilities to avoid a resurgence of this virus. They firmly believe, given the right support, the economy and health of the New Bern area can be properly balanced, and we can move forward.

We applaud the Governor’s phased approach for a gradual reopening based on public health data. However, at the Chamber, we believe that the recovery process should be enacted on a county-by-county or regional basis and not in a one-sized-fits-all model.

Everyone understands that an area like New Bern is a completely different place than a densely populated urban area, such as Raleigh or Charlotte. Rural areas, such as rural eastern North Carolina, have been fortunate to have avoided the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic but are now being forced to suffer a dire economic fate that would last well beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.

New Bern area residents and businesses have been resilient in their efforts to avoid the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Officials should now allow us to work just as hard to avoid the economic pitfalls that are certain to come with further shutdowns and restrictions on economic activity.

As we move into the Phases of re-opening, we are asking that Governor Cooper strongly consider this regional approach.

New Bern Area Chamber of Commerce, Lee C. Hodge, 2020 board chair and Kevin M. Roberts, president

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