On March 12th and 13th the Raleigh City Council will hold its annual retreat. This will be a face-to-face, in person event at the Convention Center and will be a public meeting.
I have agreed to join this meeting virtually. I will not be participating in person. There are several reasons why I have made this decision.
Multiple variants of the virus that causes COVID-19 are in circulation. The variants tend to spread more easily and quickly and may increase the risk of death and complications. Variants have been detected in the US and currently some variants have been reported in 42 states including North Carolina. It is expected that these variants will become the dominant virus unless precautions are taken to slow the spread.
Phase 3 allowing elected officials to be vaccinated began March 3rd meaning that Council members can receive the first shot (but not the second shot) sometime prior to the retreat on March 12th. It is recognized that it takes two weeks for immunity to begin and three weeks to obtain the second shot. Full immunity does not happen immediately. Others at the retreat such as staff members and the public might not have the opportunity to qualify for vaccination yet and will be at risk.
Avoid Social Gathering
Without question, the most effective way to avoid exposure is to avoid social gatherings. On January 6th the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services issued a Secretarial Directive that states the following:
Avoid gatherings with individuals you do not live with. Multiple households should not co-mingle. If you cannot avoid gathering, keep the gathering strictly outdoors and as small as possible. Wear a mask at all times and avoid activities such as eating that require removal of your mask.
As of February 24th, the guidance from the Governor’s office is if you cannot avoid gathering indoors, limit the number to 25 people. Meeting and conference spaces are limited to 30% occupancy and a maximum of 250.
In his February 24th statement, Governor Cooper said, “People are losing their loved ones each day. Many of us are weary, but we cannot let the weariness win.”
Clearly, gathering virtually will be preferable to meeting in-person. Meeting in-person should not be taken lightly and be reserved for exceptional circumstances.
The 3 W’s
To prevent or slow the spread of the virus it is recommended to wear a mask, wash hands frequently, and wait at least 6 feet apart. These precautions help a lot but are not perfect and are not a substitute for avoiding social gatherings whenever possible.
Virtual as an Alternative
Virtual meetings have proven to be an effective alternative to in-person meetings. While virtual meetings are not the same as in-person meetings, they are recognized as an effective way to conduct business while preventing the spread of Coronavirus.
Setting an Example
As an elected official it is important to set a good example. I think that we should continue to encourage avoiding in-person social gatherings. We are not out of the woods yet. Phase 3 just began. Phase 4 won’t begin until the end of March. The general population will not be vaccinated until phase 5. Until then we should do all we can to support each other to safe and healthy.