By Kristi O’Connor | March 26, 2020 at 5:48 PM EDT – Updated March 26 at 11:22 PM
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) – More than 20 states in the U.S. have issued some kind of “stay-at-home” or “shelter-in-place” order since the COVID-19 pandemic.
North Carolina is not one of them, despite Mecklenburg County officials issuing a “stay-at-home” order locally.
Two state leaders are at odds over issuing a statewide order.
On Saturday, North Carolina Chamber’s CEO and President Gary Salamido released a letter urging state officials to only issue a shelter in place order as a last resort.
“The disruption a ‘shelter-in-place’ order would generate for the private sector, and for North Carolina citizens whose financial well-being and overall welfare depends on their ability to work, cannot be underestimated. It would fashion a massive disturbance that could create the opposite of its intended effect by interfering with the very economic activity that is protecting our state and its citizenry from disaster. This concern has been shared with Governor Cooper and his team,” Salamido wrote in one paragraph.
Two days after Salamido released the letter, Novant Health’s CEO and President Carl S. Armato wrote a later to Salamido in response.
“On behalf of my hospital system, our team of doctors, nurses and caregivers putting their lives on the line; and the patients who are depending on us to help them stay safe, I strongly urge you to reverse course and get on board with the advice of expert epidemiologists around the country. We have hours, not days, to help flatten the curve and with each hour that passes, more and more residents are coming into contact with others. This means the virus continues to spread rapidly and will continue to spread unless a stay-at-home order is issued,” Armato wrote in one paragraph.
The full version of Armato’s note can be viewed at the bottom of this article.
WBTV contacted Salamido to ask for a response to Armato’s letter. In an emailed statement to WBTV, Salmido said:
“The chief focus is the health, safety and economic well-being of our citizens. I am a member of Governor Cooper’s Novel Coronavirus Task Force and have enjoyed dialogue on this issue with a number of health care professionals, as well as members across the state representing nearly every industry. We have been communicating with members, dating back to February, asking them what we can do to help them. The feedback has been consistently asking for a thoughtful, measured approach.
“The NC Chamber believes that we, as a state, are better prepared for this than many, that our state’s government and private-sector leadership are doing a tremendous job under incredibly challenging circumstances, and that any statewide shelter-in-place order should be a last resort. Our position is to simply make it clear that shelter in place should be a data-driven decision with the guidelines for resolution understood at the outset. We ultimately will honor and respect whatever decision our elected officials feel compelled to make.
“To reiterate, we are not opposed to shelter in place. What we would like is guidance on how long it would last and what criteria we should watch to indicate what is happening with the virus. This kind of information would help employers plan so they can protect their people and retain their employees.”
Armato’s full letter to Salamido reads as follows:
I must express my great concern about your recent communication asking the state to refrain from enacting stay-at-home or other orders to ensure people stay safely in their homes during this crisis. 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.
On behalf of my hospital system, our team of doctors, nurses and caregivers putting their lives on the line; and the patients who are depending on us to help them stay safe, I strongly urge you to reverse course and get on board with the advice of expert epidemiologists around the country. We have hours, not days, to help flatten the curve and with each hour that passes, more and more residents are coming into contact with others. This means the virus continues to spread rapidly, and will continue to spread unless a stay-at-home order is issued. As a key voice in our state, the Chamber has a chance to help curb the spread of COVID-19 by taking action now, and as a long-time member of the Chamber, Novant Health expects nothing less than full throated support of a stay-at-home order now.
I recognize that such an action will be followed by a series of possible unintended consequences, through its effects on the workforce and the economy as a whole, including our own hospitals. We are committed to working with our business community leaders once this state of emergency has passed to help address the needs of communities and their most vulnerable citizens and to help restore the state and the communities to good health and prosperity.
Like other crises, history will remember those who took bold action to protect the lives of their communities. 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.
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