Durham mayor to extend stay-at-home order, keep face covering requirement

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- Durham mayor Steve Schewel told ABC11 on Wednesday that he would extend the city's stay-at-home order and added the order would be simplified.

"We're not adding requirements to the order that we have previously in place. We're not adding any new restrictions. We're gradually loosening our restrictions, just as the governor is, and I think that's the right way to go," the mayor said.

He did say the face covering requirement will stay in place.

The decision comes on the heels of a Moody's Analytics report that pushes Durham near the top of the list for cities in the country that will recover well from COVID-19. The report attributes areas with large universities and low- density population as main reasons for outperforming other cities across the nation.

Durham County ranks 13th in the state for positive COVID-19 cases with 29 cases per 10,000 residents. For deaths, the County ranks 19th in the state with 1.12 deaths per 10,000. The data was analyzed based on information provided by North Carolina Health and Human Services using July 2018 population data. A large portion of Durham's cases can be attributed to congregate living facilities.

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"Because our infection rate is so low ... it means that we don't have much immunity," Schewel said. "And so, unless we are coming back with safe practices, it would be very easy for the COVID-19 cases to spike and to hit us very hard. We want to keep our community safe."

Schewel did not state how long the stay-at-home order would last nor did he go into specifically which guidelines or restrictions would be affected. He even offered a word to critics who say the order is too strict and the city should reopen sooner rather than later.

"There are some people who are just opposed to the stay-at-home orders, and I simply disagree with that. And I think that we've needed those orders. Both the governor's order and our local order," Schewel said. "And there's another group of people who I think are perhaps misunderstanding our order who think it's more Draconian than it is. Our order will mainly be things that are in the governor's order plus a few additional things."

Schewel cited Durham as a "meds-and-eds" city that overall performs well on many economic and physical levels. "Meds and eds" refers to areas where there are heavy concentrations of highly-acclaimed medical facilities and top-tier educational institutions. In Durham's case, that would include North Carolina Central University, Duke University, and Durham Tech.

"I think those assets of a city has already been incredibly important for Durham and the attractiveness of our city to people," he said. "I do think in the long-term, Durham is well-poised to recover well. I think the question for us is in the short-term is how can we successfully recover and renew, reemerge, how can we successfully reopen our businesses and still be safe."
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