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Mayor Schewel and Commissioner Jacobs Announce Durham Recovery and Renewal Task Force

Post Date:05/06/2020 12:00 PM

DURHAM, N.C. - Mayor Steve Schewel and County Commission Chair Wendy Jacobs announced today, under their emergency powers, the formation of a new Durham Recovery and Renewal Task Force. The Task Force will advise them over the next 100 days on how to revise emergency declarations and stay-at-home orders during the COVID-19 crisis. “Durham has done a great job reducing the spread of the virus,” said Schewel. “And we must continue to do that even as we plan for how Durham will recover, renew, and remerge. The Task Force will tell us how to keep our community safe as we gradually and carefully reopen.”  


Schewel and Jacobs have appointed Katie Galbraith, President of Duke Regional Hospital, and Maticia Sims, Vice President and Corporate Controller for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina, to co-chair the task force. The complete roster of task force members will be released next week, when the task force plans its first meeting.


“We are thrilled to have two strong, capable leaders heading up this Task Force,” said Jacobs. “They both bring exceptional experience in organizations committed to health care, and they are both deeply rooted in the business community as well.”


Galbraith, who also serves as the Chair for the Durham Chamber of Commerce, said, “We know people and businesses in our community are hurting and that we must find a way to safely recover the local economy as quickly as we can.”


Sims, who chairs the City of Durham’s Audit Services Oversight Committee, added, “Our recommendations will be guided by our scientific community and public health experts and informed by and responsive to the needs of the people and businesses in Durham.” 


The task force will work cooperatively and closely with state public health officials, local health systems, local business and community leaders, Durham’s Emergency Operations Center, Durham Public Schools, local universities, and local governments to ensure a well-coordinated response. “The task force,” Jacobs said, “will engage our community broadly in this important planning effort. This will include a strong commitment to racial equity and to culturally responsive frameworks that seek to address widening disparities caused by COVID-19.”


To inform the task force’s work, the co-chairs plan to create multiple ways for people to engage in the process.  Action teams will be formed to meet challenges in policy areas crucial to the recovery of Durham. An early priority will be to assess the testing, contact tracing and personal protective equipment needs of Durham -- things that national public health experts agree are essential to safely reopening our communities. As the task force identifies areas where Durham’s supply is insufficient, it will work collaboratively to identify strategies for quickly closing the gap.


The Durham Recovery and Renewal Task Force will also create industry-specific roundtables to create ways for local businesses to engage with and participate in the process for how best to reopen Durham. “We know we need the insights and participation from our businesses if we are going to get this right,” said Jacobs.  The task force plans to organize roundtables for multiple industries, including but not limited to restaurants, retail, hair and nail salons, child care, summer camps, small businesses and start-ups, gyms and fitness centers, large entertainment and shopping venues, and tourism.  The task force also plans to engage community gathering places including places of worship.


Schewel and Jacobs encourage Durham residents to pay close attention to the City and County websites for updates on current stay-at-home orders, clarifying that Gov. Cooper’s orders are setting the floor for our state. His office has encouraged local officials to consider the local context and guidance from local public health officials to determine whether restrictions beyond those in his order will be required in urban communities to protect the health of residents. 


“We will move with a sense of urgency,” said Schewel.  Jacobs concluded, “this is going to be an action-oriented task force, willing, where necessary to take bold steps to place Durham on a path to recovery and renewal.”

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