New Bern city manager memo to Board of Aldermen regarding COVID-19

Mayor Outlaw and Aldermen,

I know many of you are getting questions regarding the coronavirus and possibly heard of rumors circulating around town regarding several topics. This email will hopefully clear up some of that and provide some information you may need to assist your constituents with accurate up-to-date information.

First, let me address some of the rumor mill information that is going around in our area so we can get that out of the way. Then I will discuss some of the operations and staff actions that we are taking to ensure our preparedness for Covid-19.

Rumor Mill

1. City facilities closing

This is untrue at this time and no call has been made to close any facilities or cease any operations at this point. However, there have been discussions internally about ensuring our public’s safety by reducing the risk of exposure through unnecessary meetings, recreational events, and other large public gatherings. It is imperative that we lead by example and not create situations that could potentially put our citizens at risk by creating such interactions. With all of this in mind, there may come a time where cancellations and closings may be necessary. Any and all of those decisions will be made through consultation with the Mayor and Board and ultimately will be made to protect our citizens from further exposure.

2. Current Cases in New Bern and Craven County

Based on a conversation with the County Manager this afternoon, there are NO confirmed cases of the virus in New Bern or Craven County at this time. This does not mean that there may be some currently that are undiagnosed or in the stages of development. There have been some investigations and testing done within the County, however, all have been negative at this point in time. In fact, Johnston County is the closest reported confirmed case to New Bern and Craven County at this time and there are only 14 confirmed cases in the State of North Carolina. It is imperative that we continue to share information and guidance regarding the best management practices for keeping the exposures to the virus minimized as mentioned above and through our attachments contained herein.

City Operations

At this time, all operations are still running normally and will continue to do so until other measures are necessary to protect both our citizens and our staff. Our staff are discussing and preparing for whatever conditions we are presented with regarding the outbreak of Covid-19. Please keep in mind that the City does not have resources that the Federal, State, and County governments do for pandemic outbreaks, however, we stand ready to act at the direction of the State of NC and Craven County to assist in whatever way necessary. Until those assistance requests are made, practices and operations that we do have resources for are duly preparing for continuity of services and continued business as normal to every extent that is possible should an outbreak occur. We have had multiple meetings over the past few weeks of administrative and department head staff to discuss these topics and begin planning for actions necessary should they be needed to continue to serve our citizens with the level of services that they expect daily.

Information regarding Coronavirus (Covid – 19)

Please share with your constituents the information below to assist them in best management practices to help with reducing the spread of the virus in our community. Below is the new guidance Governor Cooper and DHHS are recommending that was released today.

As the number of cases of COVID-19 rise in North Carolina and the United States, and with the designation of COVID-19 as a pandemic by the World Health Organization, the state is responding with a whole government response.

COVID-19 is a new infection that is particularly severe in older persons and those with medical conditions, such as heart disease, lung disease, diabetes, and weakened immune systems.

At this time there are no approved treatments and no vaccine to prevent it.

However, there are known methods to reduce and slow the spread of infection.

Individuals can practice everyday prevention measures like frequent hand washing, staying home when sick, and covering coughs and sneezes.

Community-based interventions can also help slow the spread of COVID-19. This includes measures collectively known as “social distancing.” Social distancing measures aim to reduce the frequency of contact and increase physical distance between persons, thereby reducing the risks of person-to-person transmission.

These measures are most effective when implemented early in an epidemic. We are at a critical inflection point where we may have the opportunity to slow the spread of this epidemic by taking proactive steps now.

NC DHHS is making the following recommendations to reduce the spread of infection while we are still in an early stage in order to protect lives and avoid strain on our health care system. NC DHHS is making these recommendations for the next 30 days and will re-assess at that point.

The following recommendations pertain to persons statewide.

NC DHHS recommends that people at high risk of severe illness from COVID-19 should stay at home to the extent possible to decrease the chance of infection. People at high risk include people:

SYMPTOMATIC PERSONS

If you need medical care and have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or suspect you might have COVID-19, call ahead and tell your health care provider you have or may have COVID-19. This will allow them to take steps to keep other people from getting exposed. NC DHHS recommends that persons experiencing fever and cough should stay at home and not go out until their symptoms have completely resolved.

HIGH RISK PERSONS WITHOUT SYMPTOMS

Over 65 years of age, or with underlying health conditions including heart disease, lung disease, or diabetes, or with weakened immune systems.

CONGREGATE LIVING FACILITIES

NC DHHS recommends that all facilities that serve as residential establishments for high risk persons described above should restrict visitors. Exceptions should include end of life care or other emergent situations determined by the facility to necessitate a visit. If visitation is allowed, the visitor should be screened and restricted if they have a respiratory illness or potential exposure to COVID-19. Facilities are encouraged to implement social distancing measures and perform temperature and respiratory symptom screening of residents and staff. These establishments include settings such as nursing homes, independent and assisted living facilities, correction facilities, and facilities that care for medically vulnerable children.

SCHOOLS

We do not recommend pre-emptive school closure at this time but do recommend that schools and childcare centers cancel or reduce large events and gatherings (e.g., assemblies) and field trips, limit inter-school interactions, and consider distance or e-learning in some settings. Students at high risk should implement individual plans for distance or e-learning. School dismissals may be necessary when staff or student absenteeism impacts the ability to remain open. Short-term closures may also be necessary to facilitate public health investigation and/or cleaning if a case is diagnosed in a student or staff member.

WORKPLACE

NC DHHS recommends that employers and employees use teleworking technologies to the greatest extent possible, stagger work schedules, and consider canceling non-essential travel. Workplaces should hold larger meetings virtually, to the extent possible. Additionally, employers should arrange the workspace to optimize distance between employees, ideally at least six feet apart. Employers should urge high risk employees to stay home and urge employees to stay home when they are sick and maximize flexibility in sick leave benefits.

MASS GATHERINGS, COMMUNITY, AND SOCIAL EVENTS

NC DHHS recommends that organizers of events that draw more than 100 people should cancel, postpone, modify these events or offer online streaming services. These events include large gatherings where people are in close contact (less than 6 feet), for example concerts, conferences, sporting events, faith- based events and other large gatherings.

MASS TRANSIT

Mass transit operators should maximize opportunities for cleaning and disinfection of frequently touched surfaces. People should avoid using use mass transit (e.g. buses, trains) while sick.

We have posted information on our social media outlets and have dedicated a specific page to Covid-19 to assist our citizens with resources that are available for more information regarding the virus and its outbreak. Below is the link to this address.

https://www.newbernnc.gov/news_detail_T16_R93.php

Further updates will be given as they are necessary …

Mark A. Stephens, PE, MPA, ICMA-CM

City Manager

City of New Bern

300 Pollock Street

Post Office Box 1129

New Bern, NC 28563-1129 (252) 639-2700

March 13th, 2020 by
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