Greensboro mayor ready to take next steps to fight COVID

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It’s probably safe to say no local leader in North Carolina has been as aggressive in responding to COVID as Greensboro Mayor Nancy Vaughan.

Before Thanksgiving, she issued an emergency declaration setting up civil penalties for businesses in the city not complying with the governor’s mandates regarding masks and occupancy.

Now, she’s looking ahead as the numbers get worse.

Here’s the text (edited for brevity) of my virtual conversation with her this morning:

Neill

“Regarding Covid in Greensboro right now. How worried are you and what concerns you the most?”

Mayor Nancy Vaughan/City of Greensboro

“I am worried every day about COVID. You know, this started in March and it seemed like we did a good job flattening the curve there for a little while. But now our numbers have just taken off in the wrong direction. What worries me is that people aren’t getting the message that COVID isn’t like the flu.”

Neill

“What else as mayor do you have the power to do? Can you issue stay-at-home orders. Can you close businesses? I know you can do curfews?”

Mayor Vaughan

“So we do have the ability to do a stay-at-home order or to close certain businesses. My focus was on masking and capacities to make sure that the businesses that were open were following the recommendations.”

Neill

“How bad will the numbers have to get for you to make a decision regarding stay-at-home or business closings? Do you have a number in mind?”

Mayor Vaughan

“I speak with our health care providers every day. So, you know, I would be on conjunction with them and if they thought that healthcare across the county was going to be negatively impacted. Have they found that there are people who are very sick with something else that are avoiding going to the hospital? So that, you know, they are getting sicker or that people are dying because they’re afraid to go to the hospital. It’s kind of those things that will factor into that type of a decision.”

Neill

“Right before Thanksgiving, you issued an emergency declaration reinforcing the governor’s orders on face covering and indoor occupancy limits. Do you have any tangible evidence yet that it’s working because, as you know, our numbers are going up?”

Mayor Vaughan

“Once we went out and gave a business a warning, we have seen pretty much immediate compliance. Our goal was compliance, not closure.”

Neill

“But have any business owners in the city been cited yet with fines or closures?”

Mayor Vaughan

“They have not because once they were warned, and we’ve gone back, they have masked up and they have not been over-capacity.”

Neill

“In this highly-politicized atmosphere, especially since you’ve ramped up enforcement, have you gotten any threats and have there been any times when you’ve feared for your own safety?”

Mayor Vaughan

“I have not gotten threats over COVID. I haven’t feared for my safety except if I’m in a crowd and I see a lot of people without masks on. Now I have gotten lots of hateful letters. You know, I’ve gotten hateful texts, but you know that goes along with the job.”

Neill

“What’s your message to those people in Greensboro who still aren’t wearing masks, who still aren’t social distancing, who are still gathering in large groups?”

Mayor Vaughan

“If you want to keep businesses open, if you want to keep our economy moving ahead, if you want to get our children back to school, you’ll wear masks. You’ll socially distance. You’ll wash your hands, and if you’re not, then you’re the reason why those things may not happen.”

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