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On Friday afternoon, Durham’s city and county governments issued a joint order designed to clarify and tighten their stay-at-home rules. 

Mayor Steve Schewel: “We are amending the Order to respond to questions that have arisen since our original Orders were issued and to respond to violations of the initial order. We have also strengthened the enforcement provisions of this Order to ensure that all businesses and residents take the Order seriously. The good news is that our Stay-At-Home Order has taken hold with our residents and is beginning to work. People are taking social distancing very seriously, and I’m glad to report that we are beginning to see results. We are reducing the rate of growth of the virus in Durham, and we are beginning to flatten the curve. Let’s keep up that good work as a community.”

Among the changes: 

→ Public gatherings are restricted to five people, down from 10.

→ Realtors can only do virtual house showings.

→ All sports involving shared equipment, including tennis, are banned.

→ Retail stores that remain open are required to implement social distancing and sanitation practices. 

→ Farmers markets are pickup and delivery only. 

→ Employees of businesses providing services in a residential area must wear masks covering their mouths and nose. 

→ Community fitness centers in apartments and subdivisions are closed. 

Read the new order here.

Of all of North Carolina’s large counties, Durham had the slowest rate of growth of coronavirus cases last week, according to Dr. Peter Schmidt, vice dean of the East Carolina University School of Medicine: “Big congratulations to Durham County, slowest COVID-19 growth rate over the past week of all of NC’s big counties: 8% daily increases, less than double the cases over the past week. A little bit slower and we will see reductions in cases,” he tweeted on Saturday.

Coronavirus cases in North Carolina nearly tripled from March 27 to April 4: 890 to 2,504. Durham went from 103 to 181. By comparison, Wake went from 123 to 301, Guilford went from 32 to 94, Forsyth went from 17 to 82, and Mecklenburg went from 259 to 650. Known COVID-19-related deaths followed the same trajectory, from five on March 27 to 24 on April 4, according to the state DHHS. (The N&O’s count as of Friday night was 33.)

Durham announced its first COVID-19 death on Saturday. The person was over 65 and had underlying health conditions, the county said in a press release.  


This graphic, from the state DHHS, tells the story. Governor Cooper said on Friday that the federal government has told the state not to expect anything more. 

“I don’t think any state would tell you that they have everything they need right now. In fact, most states are on the open market, realizing that the federal government just simply doesn’t have it to give to them right now.”

→ ABOUT THAT STOCKPILE: It exists for precisely these kinds of national emergencies. But it’s almost empty. And now the administration is telling states they’re on their own

“When asked about states’ needs for supplies, [Jared] Kushner said the stockpile was ‘supposed to be our stockpile.’ The president’s son-in-law added, ‘It’s not supposed to be states’ stockpiles that they then use.’”

“Experts and lawmakers are concerned that the Trump administration’s uneven distribution of supplies is driven by political goals. In early March, when Washington state requested 233,000 N95 respirators and 200,000 surgical masks, the Strategic National Stockpile sent them less than half that amount. … But on March 10, after Washington’s request, Florida asked for 430,000 surgical masks, 180,000 N95 respirators, and other equipment. The full order arrived three days later. One anonymous official told the Washington Post, ‘The president knows Florida is so important for his reelection … He pays close attention to what Florida wants.’”

→ ABOUT THOSE SUPPLIES: Fifty-four countries have banned the export of masks, ventilators, and personal protective equipment. The U.S. is not one of them. During the first two months of the year, “American companies sold more than $17.5 million worth of face masks, more than $13.6 million in surgical garments and more than $27.2 million in ventilators to China.”

President Trump ordered GM and Ford to begin manufacturing ventilators “NOW!!!” via tweet (although technically through the Defense Production Act) on March 27, but the order came too late.

“Ford said it aims to produce 1,500 ventilators by the end of the month. GM, which brought its first group of 100 project workers into training this week, said it will start producing 10,000 units per month by as early as mid-May. But the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation estimates that 32,000 ventilators will be required by the peak in mid-April, and the government only has about 10,000 stockpiled, President Trump said Tuesday.”

“The problem, though, isn’t that automakers are moving slowly. It’s that they didn’t start early enough. As the disease raged in China and Italy, U.S. officials downplayed the dangers.”

Why did that happen? “As the first alarms sounded in early January that an outbreak of a novel coronavirus in China might ignite a global pandemic, the Trump administration squandered nearly two months that could have been used to bolster the federal stockpile of critically needed medical supplies and equipment. A review of federal purchasing contracts by The Associated Press shows federal agencies largely waited until mid-March to begin placing bulk orders of N95 respirator masks, mechanical ventilators and other equipment needed by front-line health care workers.” 

New York governor Andrew Cuomo recently received 1,000 ventilators from the Chinese government and 140 more from Oregon. Massachusetts governor Charlie Baker says whenever he tries to buy equipment, the feds outbid him. And Somerset County, New Jersey, says that its order for 35,000 N95 and surgical masks for health care workers was “commandeered” by the federal government.  

Click here to read the rest of today’s PRIMER.

The newsletter is sponsored this week by Village Hearth Cohousing, a 55-and-up Durham cohousing community for the LGBTQ community, allies, and friends that will open in mid-May. They’ve brought together wonderful people from all over the country, and they’ve only got four homes left. Would you like to join them? Learn more about Village Hearth and whether it could be right for you or someone you love.  

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