’Are we moving too fast?’ Roanoke mayor expresses concern over move to Phase 3

Mayor Sherman Lea, Roanoke City-Alleghany VDH director express concerns over entering Phase 3

ROANOKE, Va. – The countdown to Phase 3 is on and the city of Roanoke is preparing to reopen on July 1 following Gov. Ralph Northam’s guidelines; however, the city’s leaders and health officials have a warning

During an interview with 10 News on Thursday, just one day after city leaders announced they would enter Phase 3 as planned, Roanoke Mayor Sherman Lea said he is wondering if that’s the right call.

“I’m just concerned. Are we moving too fast?” asked Lea.

He said his concerns stem from the fact that the city’s coronavirus cases are still rising, including a spike this week of more than 40 cases in the Roanoke-Alleghany region after people returned home from a trip to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

As of Thursday, the Star City has had 359 cases, 14 hospitalizations and 10 deaths.

“It’s a red flag to me,” said Lea. “Can we delay that [reopening] until our numbers get better?”

Dr. Molly O’Dell, the director of communicable disease control with the Virginia Department of Health’s Roanoke City-Alleghany Health Districts told 10 News in a statement that reads in part:

“Our case numbers are steadily climbing. Whenever there is more co-mingling of people there will be the likelihood of more case transmission. It is imperative that we remain vigilant in our practice of social distancing, face-cloth covering and good hygiene practices. It is also important to avoid going to visit other known hotspots or, if this is unavoidable, to self-quarantine for 14 days upon return from a known hotspot.”

10 News also reached out to Roanoke City Manager Bob Cowell, who told WSLS in an statement:

“I have spoken with the Mayor and he continues to express concerns regarding the recent increase in positive cases, and the need for everyone to continue to take the virus seriously -- to adhere to the wearing of facecovers, distancing, avoiding gathering in large groups, and to avoid travel to known areas of concern. The Mayor has no intent to seek any formal actions to defer the City’s movement into Phase 3 of the reopening.

Still, Lea said it’s something to consider.

“I’m supportive. I want the city to be open. I want businesses to get back and come back, but also, at what cost?” said Lea. “Economically, I’m concerned about it, but first and foremost, is safety.”

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