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League Bulletin

October 23, 2020

​WHAT HAPPENED: The League and the N.C. Association of County Commissioners facilitated calls between local leaders and state health officials on measures to take as the pandemic persists. The governor separately announced the state will “remain paused” in Phase 3 of the state’s reopening.

WHAT IT MEANS: The metrics are detailed in slides from the governor’s office, specifically looking at numbers over the previous 14 days. After the phone calls with local leaders, the state issued a letter to the 36 counties with the most concerning figures. They’ve been identified by the White House Task Force as a “county of concern.” The letter goes over ways to stem the spread through policy and individual behavior.

ON TAP: League members – submit your written ideas for the 2021-22 legislative policy goals planning process. This is the opportunity to make your community’s voice heard as cities and towns work with the General Assembly for important outcomes.

THE SKINNY: The common theme here is awareness and action. Keep up on the numbers and trends inside and out of your community and participate in the process of improvement. We thank you for your continued leadership.

​The League’s live planning sessions have ended for the 2021-22 legislative policy goals planning process, but it’s not too late to take part in this critical process. We need your participation to make sure cities' and towns' voices are heard and the issues that matter to you are included in our legislative goals package.

Cities and towns should submit their goal suggestions in writing via our online form by Nov. 5.

State health leaders, on calls arranged by the League and the N.C. Association of County Commissioners, recently discussed with local officials in the most hard-hit counties the most powerful ways to counter the pandemic – including policies to consider implementing locally – as recent trendlines and hospitalizations continue to worry experts. “The incredible work of our local partners has allowed North Carolina to avoid the first and second waves of rapid spikes in COVID-19 positives that devastated so many other states,” N.C. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen (pictured) wrote in a letter to city and county officials following the calls. “To protect our communities, we must continue working together in this fight against COVID-19.” Cohen specifically sent that letter to leaders in the 36 counties in the state that have the most concerning metrics. “You are in a county that has had 300 or more new cases in the last 14 days and has been identified by the White House Task Force as a county of concern; your case rate is greater than 50 cases per 10,000 people; or your county is one of the top three most populous counties in the state.” N.C. Department of Public Safety Secretary Erik Hooks also signed the letter.

Examples of local actions to slow the spread are laid out in the letter, which you can review in full here. They include ordinance measures; the letter notes the relevant state statutes for them. More broadly, Cohen emphasized the array of awareness materials available from the state in English and Spanish online at “We hope you will consider doing or continuing what has taken place already across the state: creating local signs, flags, and banners to promote compliance; promoting the Three W’s when speaking to the press and community groups; partnering with local media on radio and television spots; and promoting similar messaging on social media and web-pages,” Cohen said.

New from the state is the availability of county-level data on its COVID-19 Dashboard, online at See the County Map by Cases section of the Summary dashboard page. It includes the number of total cases, the number of cases from the prior day, the number of cases over the last seven days, and the number of cases over the last 14 days.

​Gov. Roy Cooper this week announced North Carolina will “remain paused” in Phase 3 of the state’s reopening under caution with COVID-19. “North Carolina has seen increased hospitalizations and trajectory of cases in recent weeks. Governor Cooper underscored the importance of wearing masks, social distancing, and using good judgment despite fatigue or frustration with the pandemic,” a press release from the governor’s office said. “We are doing everything we can to slow the spread of this virus. This simple fact is we can’t do it on our own. Ignoring the virus doesn’t make it go away – just the opposite,” said N.C. Department of Health and Human Resources Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen. “As hard as this is, it will end. We will get through this. Let’s do it by looking out for one another. Whatever your reason, get behind the mask.” Slides from the governor’s briefing detail the trends that led to the Phase 3 extension. A five-page executive order explains further.

​Federal officials are saying the state-by-state counts from the 2020 Census might not be ready by the statutory year-end deadline as they seek opportunities for flexibility and troubleshooting. Route Fifty reports that factors including the pandemic caused various delays and changes in operations for the Census Bureau, leading observers including the Government Accountability Office to signal the possibility of an incomplete, inaccurate count. “It is our plan right now that if we need more time to fix a problem that comes up that would impact the quality of the census, we’re taking it,” Al Fontenot, associate director of decennial census programs for the bureau, said this week.

According to Fontenot, staffers are working hard with faster computers and round-the-clock processing, but there are no assurances. He also indicated it’s uncertain whether they can produce final redistricting data by the March 31, 2021 deadline, Route Fifty reports.

The Census Bureau’s newsroom this week reported that all states have topped the 99 percent response rate, and that the overall self-response rate (67 percent) was better than that of the 2010 operation (66.5 percent). Data collection for the 2020 Census ended Oct. 15. The bureau says paper responses are still coming in and will be processed if postmarked by Oct. 15 and received by Oct. 22.