Durham City, County leaders discuss COVID-19 challenges, strategies for reopening

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- Durham city and county leaders are discussing strategies to tackle COVID-19. The municipalities met via Zoom for a joint meeting Tuesday.

"Here in Durham, we're sitting at 897 cases of COVID, resulting in 35 deaths," Durham County Health Director Rod Jenkins told the attendees.

But the increase in cases also highlighted disparities.

"As COVID became a little bit more progressive within our community, it truly started to reflect the demographics of Durham," Jenkins said. "As far as the African American community I saw a number of deaths at long-term care facilities so that definitely spearheaded a call to action."

The call to action now includes a huge focus on awareness with much emphasis on Hispanic communities where a spike has been seen.

"We want them to seek care and want them to understand," Jenkins said. "Covid-19 is an equal opportunity killer."

Leaders also heard from advocates who fight homelessness. Urban Ministries moved its shelter population into hotels.

"We will have some challenges as we start thinking about the hotel stay. At some point, we will be moving people back to congregate shelters," the representative explained.

From the homeless to home school, the crisis has brought the community together to help feed Durham students who were shut out during Durham Public School's shutdown of its feeding program.

"Between the city, county and school system, we need to figure out how to have a person to champion and drive this work going forward. Not just now in this time of crisis -- hunger is its own pandemic," Commissioner Heidi Carter said.

As for reopening, the mayor announced a task force made of community partners who will come up with strategies for a safe reopening.
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