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Local Covid updates, new grants, testing, vaccination requirements, data, recommendations, optimism (we got this!)

Local Covid updates, new grants, testing, vaccination requirements, data, recommendations, optimism (we got this!)

Carrboro Business Alliance CEO Statement

Things are changing again and the pandemic we were ready to put behind us has returned to front and center. But this time we have the benefit of experience and e know we must slow the spread, end the pandemic, and avoid the hardships we endured last time (stay at home orders, remote school, business curfews, maxing out our healthcare system ...).

This word of encouragement (you got this!) and an important list of resources and data points are designed to help you, your employees, and your business continue to successfully navigate the crisis.

Your Chamber is here for you. Mask up. Vax up. Stay strong.

County Vaccination Rates (dashboard link)

  • Orange County has the highest vaccination rate in the state with 78% of residents fully vaccinated and 81% with at least 1 shot (Durham 60%/64%; Chatham 50%/54%, Alamance 48%/52%).
  • Orange County also has the highest adult (18+) vaccination rate in the state with 90% fully vaccinated and 94% with at least 1 shot (Durham 71%/76%, Chatham 60%/64%, Alamance 59%/63%).

University Vaccination Rates (dashboard link)

  • 90% of UNC Chapel Hill students attest to being vaccinated and 98% of Duke students report vaccination (more than twice the national average for their age group).
  • 82% of UNC Chapel Hill and 92% Duke employees are vaccinated, and climbing.

So, who is vaccinated? 

  • 100% of your Chamber staff
  • 100% of living US Presidents
  • 100% of US Governors (the Rs and the Ds)
  • 100% of people at your Chamber’s in-person event (a new requirement)
  • 96% of members of US Congress
  • 91% of all adults in Orange County (NC) and 99% of adults 65+
  • 90% of UNC Chapel Hill students and 98% of Duke Students
  • 82% of UNC Chapel Hill and 92% of Duke faculty and staff.
  • Less than 10% of hospitalized patients in North Carolina

Covid Cases (dashboard link)

  • “Over the last week, the state has reported an average of 5,779 new cases per day. That rate has doubled since the first of this month and has increased nearly 20 times from July 1.” News & Observer Link
  • Orange County has the 2nd fewest cases per capita in the state (Avery County is #1) link
  • The test positivity rate of North Carolina Covid now exceeds 14%, but is below 4% in Orange County and 2.4% on UNC campus (14,400 student, faculty and staff tests completed in August). The goal is less than 5%. Link UNC Link
  • On June 23, 2021, there were 51 Covid positive patients across UNC Health’s 12 hospitals. On August 23, 2021, there were 471. (UNC Health Release)

Hospital Capacity
From UNC Health: “Our facilities across the state are extremely busy with both COVID and non-COVID patients. We are monitoring bed and ICU capacity, equipment, and staff very closely. Some of our hospitals, including UNC Medical Center in Chapel Hill and UNC Rex in Raleigh, have begun reducing some elective procedures which require overnight hospital stays. This is being done to ensure our ability to provide care for critical and acute patients as needed. UNC Health remains confident in our ability to care for COVID and non-COVID patients, and we strongly encourage the public to get vaccinated, wear masks and employ social distancing.” (UNC Health Release)

Vaccine vs Delta Variant
From UNC Health: “We know there are many questions about the vaccine effectiveness against the delta variant. Two of our health experts, Dr. David Wohl and Dr. Crystal Cene, shared their thoughts in this recent interview. Please watch the video and help us spread the message.” (UNC Health Release)

Local Masking Rules

  • In Orange, Chatham, Durham, Wake, and many other NC counties, indoor mask mandates have been reinstated. The Orange County mandate (and others) applies to anyone 2 years and older, regardless of vaccination status. There are a few exceptions and you can see them in the Orange Order and Durham Order.
  • There currently are no local rules regarding capacity or gathering indoors or outdoors, and we are not anticipating any at this time.

Mask Signage Helps 

Questions We Hear and Some Quick Answers (Caveat: I am not an attorney, but am well-read, well-rested, and sought legal advice on these answers :)

  • Masks: Can you require masks be worn to enter your business? - Yes. Even if the person meets one of the exceptions? - Yes. Really? - Yes. Example: if you have a skin condition that makes wearing clothes super painful, you still can’t shop naked (but you may need to accommodate the customer by providing services outside your establishment, eyes averted).
  • Vaccination: Can we require employees to vaccinate? - Yes (with accommodations made for ADA and religious exemptions). Do we have to give employees a testing option in lieu of being vaccinated? - No, but some are.
  • Vaccination: Can we require customers or the public be vaccinated to enter our property or do business with us in person? - Yes. Pandemics do not void your private property rights.

Covid Testing

  • Orange County is still offering free weekday testing in Chapel Hill (7:00am-3:00pm, PCR only) and Hillsborough (11:00am-7:00pm, PCR and Rapid) CLICK HERE for more info and to register. No ID, no registration, no insurance is required.
  • Chatham County is offering three-day-a-week testing. Chatham Testing Link
  • Remember, rapid tests are only reliable for symptomatic individuals. Asymptomatic individuals should get a PCR test for highest confidence in the results.

What Businesses are Doing

  • Many local businesses are now requiring vaccination of their employees or requiring vaccination with the option to test weekly in lieu of vaccination (PCR).
  • We expect a majority of local workers will work for an employer requiring vaccination, or vaccination with testing exception, by the end of September.
  • Some local businesses are requiring vaccination of indoor or in-person customers (more than 28 restaurant and venues in the region). We predict this will grow much more common over the next few months.
  • Take a picture of your vaccination card, you may need it to get into your favorite restaurant or shop soon.

What the Chamber is Doing

  • The Chamber Board has decided all employees must be vaccinated, and we are.
  • The Chamber Board has also decided that participation in all Chamber in-person programming will require vaccination (Business After Hours, Golf Tournament, Board Retreat, etc)
  • The Chamber urges employers to use all available strategies to encourage staff vaccination. When achieved, promote your 100% vaccinated status with pride.

New Grants

  • Carrboro is on the cusp of launching a new small business grant program with $300,000 to distribute and grants up to $20,000 link
  • Chapel Hill is finalizing the application for their ReVive Business Grant Program with $200,000 to distribute in grants up to $5,000.
  • Orange County continues its quarterly grant application program and more info can be found here. link

How Can We Help

  • The Chamber’s professional staff and volunteers are committed to you and helping you navigate through this Covid crisis and emerge successful on the other side.
  • Reach out, write back, and let us know how we can best be serving and supporting you.

In appreciation and partnership,

Aaron M. Nelson, IOM
President and CEO


Thank You to our Community Champions!


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