N.C. Doctors Urge Governor to Halt Non-Essential Business

“Now is the time to take decisive action to limit the spread and preserve our precious resources to fight this pandemic. If action is delayed, we fear we will not be able to handle the surge in the health care needs.”

by Richard Stradling, The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.) / March 26, 2020
A hotel in Chapel Hill, N.C. is closed along with many restaurants, bars and businesses due to the coronavirus Tuesday, March 17, 2020. Gov. Roy Cooper earlier today mandated all bars and restaurants in North Carolina close to encourage social distancing. Takeout, delivery and drive-thru options may still be available, depending on the individual restaurant. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome) AP

(TNS) — Doctors and physicians assistants have joined the state’s hospitals in urging Gov. Roy Cooper to go further in limiting unnecessary contact between people to try to stem the spread of coronavirus.

The N.C. Medical Society called on Cooper to issue an executive order to “stop the public’s in-person access to non-essential businesses for two weeks.” Though it did not use the phrases “shelter in place” or “stay at home,” the society’s letter to the governor Wednesday echoed the state’s hospital association, which on Monday urged Cooper to order people to shelter in place.

Like the hospitals, the medical society cited potential shortages of supplies, equipment and hospital beds as the number of COVID-19 cases grow across the state. The society’s letter was signed by its president, Dr. Palmer Edwards, and Robert Seligson, its executive vice president and CEO.

“Now is the time to take decisive action to limit the spread and preserve our precious resources to fight this pandemic,” they wrote. “If action is delayed, we fear we will not be able to handle the surge in the health care needs.”

The medical society has about 10,000 members across the state.

Local governments in North Carolina began this week to order residents to shelter in place or stay at home. They include the state’s two largest counties, Wake and Mecklenburg, and the City of Durham.

But Cooper has so far resisted calls to do the same statewide. At a press conference Wednesday afternoon, he stopped short of ordering people to stay home but suggested more restrictions will be coming.

“Local communities are doing what they think is right, and I understand that,” Cooper said. “It’s important for us to make sure that we are deliberate and that we get this right. We’re telling people now that we want them to stay home. ... And we will be issuing additional orders soon.”

Not everyone is eager for more restrictions on commerce and people’s movements in the face of coronavirus. On Saturday, the N.C. Chamber of Commerce published a statement saying it thinks ordering people to stay home should be done only as a last resort.

“While some states have taken the drastic step of resorting to shelter-in-place orders endeavoring to control the spread of COVID-19, North Carolina’s practiced response to natural disasters and disciplined emergency management has us well positioned to avoid a total shutdown in the near term,” wrote Gary Salamido, the chamber’s president and CEO.

“Undoubtedly, public health and safety sits prominently as our lodestar,” Salamido continued, “but tripping the main breaker can only be a last resort — this position of the NC Chamber and the business community has been communicated to Governor Roy Cooper.”

The chamber includes hospitals and physician groups among its members, and some were not pleased with its position. Carl Armato, president and CEO of Novant Health, which operates clinics and 15 hospitals in four states, sent a letter to Salamido on Monday urging him to reverse his position.

“In short, your message places the economy above the lives of the people of North Carolina, and I cannot stand by and allow that to continue unchecked,” Armato wrote.

“Like other crises, history will remember those who took bold action to protect the lives of their communities,” he continued. “I ask you to join the doctors, nurses, and other experts whose wise counsel, if heeded now, will protect what matters most — the lives of those who are depending on us to call for what is needed, even when what is needed is difficult.”


©2020 The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.)

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