4/24/20: THE BEACON EXPOUNDS UPON THE GOVERNOR’S STAY-AT-HOME ORDER EXTENSION AND 3-PHASE GRADUAL PLAN FOR REOPENING. Plus, We Refer You to NCDHHS’s Dashboard for Demographic Data and Try to Explain the Dare County Control Group.   

CV test GENERIC 0010 

The Beacon’s coverage yesterday of Governor Roy Cooper’s afternoon press conference was based on our watching it live, not on reading a press release or the new executive order that extended the current statewide stay-at-home order to 5 p.m. on May 8. Today, we fill in some blanks.

First, you may access the Governor’s Executive Order 135, which is titled “Extending Stay at Home Order and Orders Limiting Mass Gatherings, Requiring Social Distancing and Restricting Visitation at Long Term Care Facilities,” at https://files.nc.gov/governor/documents/files/EO135-Extensions.pdf.

A press release issued by the Governor’s Office that summarizes yesterday’s conference is available at https://governor.nc.gov/news/governor-extends-stay-home-order-through-may-8-plans-three-phase-lifting-restrictions-based.

We found the most confusing aspect of the Governor’s news yesterday to be his description of Phase One of the three-phase gradual reopening that he outlined.

Judging by the questions asked by the media after the Governor finished his remarks, we were not the only ones. But we were ahead of many of them in understanding that the stay-at-home order will not be lifted in Phase One. If and when the reopening progresses to Phase Two, the order will be rescinded then.

The press release clarified for us that in Phase One, people will be allowed to travel for non-essential reasons to businesses that currently are allowed to be open, such as sporting goods stores, hardware and houseware stores, clothing stores, book shops, and other retailers.

The current stay-at-home order requires people to go out only for essential reasons, such as for grocery shopping and prescription drug pickups. But we all know that people are not adhering to that restriction, shopping for non-essential items at this time, too.

We were confused yesterday as to what, if any, differences the Governor was saying would be implemented in Phase One. As a practical matter, there would be little change.

Any stores that are open in Phase One would have to implement employee and consumer social-distancing, hygiene and cleaning protocols, symptom screening of employees, and other protective public-health measures. There would be no lifting of any restrictions on social distancing and mass gatherings, and face coverings would continue to be recommended for public settings when 6-foot social distancing cannot be maintained.

THE NCDHHS DASHBOARD

The Governor said his three-phase plan would be based on the “science, data, and trends” of COVID-19 in the state. NCDHHS Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen expounded yesterday on all three, illustrating her explanation with graphs showing how key indicators, such as the number of new COVID-19 cases in the past 14 days, are trending.

One Southern Shores resident raised reasonable questions on The Beacon’s Facebook page yesterday about the demographic data upon which Governor Cooper, Dr. Cohen, and other members of the N.C. coronavirus task force are relying. We replied that there is demographic information available on the NCDHHS dashboard, to which Dr. Cohen repeatedly alluded yesterday.

The dashboard is accessible at https://www.ncdhhs.gov/divisions/public-health/covid19/covid-19-nc-case-count. We encourage you to check it out.

At the top of the dashboard are the latest statewide statistics on the number of positive COVID-19 test results, the number of tests run, the number of COVID-19-related deaths, the number of hospitalizations, and the number of N.C. counties that have reported a COVID-19 case.

These data are updated every day by 11 a.m., and the Dare County Emergency Management bulletin that appears later in the day always provides them.

Today, the dashboard shows statewide laboratory-confirmed positive test results are up to 8,052, out of 100,584 tests completed, which means 8 percent of the tests came back positive; the number of deaths have increased by 16 from yesterday to 269 deaths; there are 477 hospitalizations; and 93 counties are reporting cases.

That only 100,584 tests have been done in a statewide population of nearly 10.5 million—North Carolina is the ninth most populous state in the nation—is a big problem for the Governor, Dr. Cohen, and members of the State coronavirus task force. They do not know how big the iceberg beneath this tip may be.

Under these overall statistics, you will find links on the dashboard to demographic data, such as lab-confirmed COVID-19 cases and COVID-19-related deaths, according to age, race/ethnicity, and gender, among other categories.

Here is a link to the breakdown of cases and deaths by age: https://www.ncdhhs.gov/divisions/public-health/covid19/covid-19-nc-case-count#by-age.

It shows the following percentages among the total number of cases reported:

Ages 0 to 17: 2 percent

Ages 18-24: 7 percent

Ages 25-49: 40 percent

Ages 50-64: 28 percent

Ages 65+: 24 percent

The deaths are reported to be as follows:

Ages 0 to 17: none

Ages 18-24: none

Ages 24-49: 4 percent

Ages 50-64: 11 percent

Ages 65+: 85 percent

The gender data show that of the total number of deaths, 61 percent are of men and 39 percent of women, even though more women than men have been diagnosed with COVID-19. Diagnoses skew 51 percent female and 47 percent male.

Similar statistics have been reported throughout the country. More men than women are dying from the virus. Theories have been explored as to why, but The Beacon will not explore them here today.

The Governor will hold a press briefing today at 2 p.m. to address a possible opening of the K-12 public schools and to discuss how the N.C. General Assembly will proceed with its fiscal year 2020-21 budget.

The Raleigh News and Observer reported this morning that the Governor is expected to extend the school closure, which currently expires May 15.

THE DARE COUNTY CONTROL GROUP

The Beacon has discovered that many people are confused about who and what the Dare County Control Group is and what legal authority it has. Little wonder. No one at the County or town level has publicly sought to explain the Control Group.

Unlike in Currituck County, where the county board of commissioners is making decisions during the COVID-19 emergency, the Dare County Board of Commissioners is not directly calling the shots. You are seeing and hearing from Dare County Board of Commissioners Chairperson Bob Woodard, not because he is announcing actions approved by the Board, but because of his unique status in the event of a declared county state of emergency.

The key to understanding the lines of authority is Chapter 92 of the Dare County Code of Ordinances, which outlines emergency management and is known as the Dare County Emergency Management Chapter. This chapter sets up an Emergency Management Plan (the “Plan”) and designates who has authority, and what their duties and powers are, in regard to administering the Plan.

The Beacon may devote a future blog to this Plan. For now, suffice it to say that, pursuant to Chapter 92, the Dare County Board of Commissioners has delegated authority to its Chairman “to determine and declare the existence of a state of emergency . . . , to order the evacuation of some or all portions of the county, to authorize the reentry of persons into the county . . . and to impose . . . prohibitions and restrictions deemed necessary to protect public health, safety and welfare and minimize damage to property.” (See Code sec. 92.05(B))

In exercise of this authority, Mr. Woodard has declared all of the emergency orders and restrictions that have been issued by Dare County during the COVID-19 pandemic. See Dare County orders at https://www.darenc.com/home/showdocument?id=6324.

Chapter 92 also establishes an Emergency Management Department to act as “the agency through which” the Dare Board of Commissioners exercises its authority, and authorizes the Board to appoint a director of that department.

The person currently in the job is Drew Pearson. His duties and responsibilities are enumerated in sec. 92.07 of the Dare County Code of Ordinances. The Dare Emergency Operations Center is located on Airport Road in Manteo.

So how does the Dare County Control Group fit into the mix?

Under sec. 92.08 of the Dare Code of Ordinances, Mr. Pearson, the emergency management director, is charged with developing a comprehensive Emergency Management Plan that the Dare County Board of Commissioners must adopt and maintain by resolution.

Among the legal requirements of the Plan is the establishment of a Dare County Control Group, which “shall work collectively to make timely decisions regarding implementation of the Plan in response to actual or imminent emergencies.” (Sec. 92.8(F)

Membership of that group must include the “Chairman of the Dare County Board of commissioners or the Chairman’s designee, the Mayors, or their designees, of all incorporated municipalities in the county, the Dare County Sheriff, and the Superintendent of the National Park Service Outer Banks Group.”  (Sec. 92.8(F))

Nine people. You will find them all listed by name here:

https://www.darenc.com/departments/emergency-management/about

So, although the Dare County Board of Commissioners has delegated authority to both the Director of the Emergency Management Department and to the Dare County Control Group, it is not correct to say that individual members of the current Board are making decisions during the COVID-19 crisis—although Mr. Woodard did announce at a commissioners’ meeting that Commissioner Danny Couch has been serving on the Control Group. By what authority, we do not know.

Pursuant to the Dare County Code, all proclamations issued by the Control Group, or by its chairperson—now Bob Woodard—“shall have the same force and effect of law” as any other provision in the Emergency Management Chapter.

We will leave it there for now. Clearly, Currituck County does not have an emergency management plan remotely like the one in effect in Dare County.

SOUTHERN SHORES BUDGET WORKSHOP: I have not forgotten about covering Tuesday’s Southern Shores Town Council budget workshop in more detail. I simply have not had time, with all of the county and state news of the week, to think about it, much less to look at the videotape to pick up voices that could not be heard through Zoon.

The videotape of the Town Council’s workshop is available online at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nIsG7Y-9bvk&feature=youtu.be.

Town Councilman Jim Conners has informed me that I misinterpreted what he said at the meeting about speaking with his colleagues out of the public forum regarding the proposed recycling contract and that I have done him an injustice. He insists he did not violate the open-meeting law, as I alleged, and I take him at his word. Before I do a major mea culpa, however, I would like to view the videotape.

Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 4/24/20

 

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