Behind closed doors, Mecklenburg County government officials are meeting with leaders of some of the region’s biggest companies to discuss reopening the Charlotte area’s economy. The Covid-19 Business Leaders Roundtable includes more than 40 executives and officials led by county manager Dena Diorio. Its members include officials from state, county, and local levels. The roundtable also includes executives from Bank of America and LYFT along with local business groups like the Charlotte Regional Business Alliance. Diorio announced the members after the first meeting of the group late last week.
According to Diorio, the group is not able to dictate plans, they are serving in an advisory role. “Their input and their guidance is going to be critically important and will weigh heavily on the decisions that we make.” Diorio said. She went on to say the group will likely hold another meeting sometime this week and that they will likely continue meeting until there is a full reopening of the economy.
“The focus is how do you balance reopening things while also keeping people safe?” said Huntersville Town Manager Anthony Roberts. He said he will serve on the committee as the North Mecklenburg County representative. “The group will be looking to determine how we can open businesses back up.”
An agenda for the first meeting obtained by the Charlotte Observer, showed that the roundtable planned to start by discussing the purpose of the group, then moved to discussing the state’s reopening plan. Last week, Governor Roy Cooper extended North Carolina’s stay at home order through May 8. The orders extending closure of restaurants for dine-in service and bars and closure of other close-contact businesses are also extended through May 8.
“One thing we want to discuss is how we can do a safe soft launch,” said Matthews Mayor John Higdon. He cited federal adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci’s advice about not flipping a switch and saying things are normal. “How can we slowly open businesses deemed nonessential, and how can we open them in a safe manner?” Matthews will be represented on the roundtable by Town Manager Hazen Blodgett according to Mayor Higdon.
County health officials shared a forecast that coronavirus cases will peak in Mecklenburg in June and strain hospital resources. Mecklenburg Public Health Director Gibbie Harris previously said a surge would hit the region between mid-April and mid-May. Last week, Harris announced a June 8 peak was more likely. This is based on modeling that shows social distancing practices and public restrictions had begun to flatten the curve.
“The good news is, although we’re watching these models very closely, the surge that we had anticipated, we’re not quite seeing,” said Jesse Cureton. He is the chief consumer officer for Novant Health and a member of the roundtable. “But we’re still operating from a standpoint that we may very well see a surge.”
The Covid-19 Business Leaders Roundtable meetings are not open to the public or media. For a list of roundtable members click here.