CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Keeping with social distancing recommendations, Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles held a virtual news conference Wednesday, taking questions from reporters by phone, about how the city is handling the coronavirus crisis.
“We have been told by our health care professionals that if we can flatten this curve we will have more capacity to treat everyone,” Lyles said. “And that is what we are seeking right now, that capacity for treatment and care.”
The mayor says she has not been tested for COVID-19 and has no symptoms. She side-stepped a question about whether the Stay-at-Home order should have been issued sooner.
“Our health care systems are giving us information about what they need in order to be successful in this fight and we are following that,” she said. “So, I believe that what we’ve done is appropriate.”
Lyles says it’s important for people to stay home for anything that isn’t considered essential. Businesses that aren’t considered essential – “please use common sense” - are encouraged to close, the mayor said.
“Making the choice to stay open, if at all needed, is an important one,” Lyles said. “And, my hope is that anyone making that decision uses and understands the gravity of that decision and takes it very carefully.”
Residents won’t need a document or letter to be outside, the mayor clarified, adding that police enforcement will be limited unless the situation gets worse.
“We are not going to be following people around,” the mayor said, saying enforcement will focus on education. “We are not planning on having police officers stop people unless we get to that situation where we have that need. And that’s not happening now.”
The mayor says the approach will be reviewed “constantly to see if it’s working.”
“The order is really to help our city continue to be safe,” she added. “And, to not have what’s taking place in New York happen here in Charlotte.”
New York has 25,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and the governor projects 140,000 hospital beds will be needed.
North Carolina has more than 600 confirmed cases with one death as of March 25, according to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.
Asked about a shortage of hospital beds and life-saving medical equipment, the mayor says the city is requesting federal resources.
“We are trying very hard at every level to get that material in,” she said.
The mayor says residents will not see changes to police and fire services. Officials are looking at ways to help small business owners who are suffering due to closures.
“We’re looking very closely at what local funding we can have,” she said, “to match anything, or to supplement anything, that [a federal] stimulus package would provide.”
Lyles says the City needs to continue lobbying at a federal level to have funds included in any stimulus package for small businesses.
One relief option, locally, that is “on the table” is lowering property taxes, Lyles said. She says tax breaks for seniors and those who have lost jobs are also being considered.
No decision has been made on that yet nor on whether the Republican National Convention, scheduled for August, should be postponed.
“I don’t have an answer to that because what we would do is follow the national and federal guidelines,” the mayor said. “And who knows what the summer will be like.”