May 1, 2020
Earlier this week, The News & Observer published an op-ed I wrote on the COVID-19 pandemic and how we move forward on reopening Raleigh. The column in its entirety is included below.
Mayor Baldwin: Raleigh needs to wait on reopening
The COVID-19 pandemic has upended our lives in ways that we couldn’t have imagined just a few months ago. It’s kept us away from our friends and families. Raleigh’s cultural soul – our small businesses – have been forced to close. And hundreds of thousands across our state have lost their jobs. This crisis has hit the most vulnerable among us especially hard. These are some of the most challenging times our city has ever faced, but we will get through it together if we continue to stay at home, socially distance and follow the advice of our public health experts.
At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, our city, county and state implemented strong measures to slow the spread of the virus. The data shows that the actions we’ve taken are working, but the numbers also show that now is not the time to reopen. We’re beginning to see early signs of the curve flatting, but just last week, North Carolina saw its second largest day-over-day increase in new cases of COVID-19. I fully support Gov. Roy Cooper’s extension of our statewide stay-at-home order and his plan for a gradual, phased re-opening only after we have strong evidence that new cases are declining.
Everyone is ready to return to a sense of normalcy and bring stability back into our lives. We will get there sooner rather than later if we continue to stick together in staying apart.
In the meantime, Raleigh sees you, hears you, and we are doing what we can to ensure you are supported. One of the first steps our city took was to reconnect all water and sewer accounts that were suspended due to non-payment. More recently, we raised the consumption tiers for residential water rates to ensure that families aren’t penalized for increased water use. In recent weeks, we’ve allocated city funding for our homeless and housing insecure and have begun crafting a plan to use federal CARES Act funding to provide rent, utility and mortgage assistance as well as eviction prevention for families below 30 percent of the area median income. Last week, we acted to support our small businesses community. We established the Raleigh Small Business Grant Fund and committed $1 million in funding for businesses. with fewer than 49 employees and annual revenue under $2.5 million.
In light of the economic hardship that so many have faced during the COVID-19 pandemic, I can understand why some are frustrated and are calling for a reopening of our city and state. But I believe calls for reopening are misguided. We need to put science first. Once we have the testing capabilities and observe a significant trend of declining cases, we can start the process of reopening.
Raleigh will come together again, and I look forward to that time. Our local businesses will be open and thriving, we’ll enjoy the atmosphere of our favorite restaurants and bars, city streets will be busy, art galleries and museums will showcase the creativity and vibrant culture of our community, and Raleigh will again feel like the home we love. But in order for that to happen, we have to make sure our friends, neighbors and loved ones are still here tomorrow. Raleigh has survived difficult times before and we will survive this too. Stay home and take care of yourselves.