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  • Snowy Downtown Chapel Hill

Mayor's Message: How to help neighbors and friends during coronavirus social distancing

Post Date:03/20/2020 7:20 PM

Chapel Hill Friends and Neighbors,

Just a few weeks ago, many of us had never heard the term “social distancing” before.  Now, with schools cancelled and many working from home, the Town has been receiving a lot of questions about how to help one another and stay connected while also staying safe.

Over the past week, my office has received many questions including whether it is safe to buy groceries for an elderly neighbor, if it is safe to take care of a neighbor’s children and how to connect to necessary resources.

Keeping an eye on our neighbors and helping one another out will be even more important in the coming days.   A first step is to establish solid channels of communication and ways for sharing information.  Looking online, I’ve seen many creative solutions ranging from a red/green paper system in the window as a signal for help to a call list of people checking in on one another.  Each neighborhood is different.  If you haven’t done so already, I encourage you to reach out and work out a communication strategy that meets the need of everyone in your immediate area.

At this point, social distancing is the key to keeping our community safer and reducing the amount of time that our lives are disrupted.  There will be times, however, when a neighbor needs your help.  In those cases, please use common sense precautions to keep yourself and others safe.

Also, please make sure that you and your neighbors are staying abreast of new information being shared by the Town and county.  For additional information on the coronavirus please visit the Orange County Health Department’s webpage at COVID-19 webpage or call 919-245-6111 for up-to-date information. Spanish language and other languages are available. The Town also has posted information resources at

In addition to online and social media channels, the Town utilizes a network of Neighborhood Liaisons who share and exchange information between the Town and residents in Chapel Hill neighborhoods and homeowners’ associations. There is a good geographic distribution among the nearly 100 liaisons currently registered with the Town.   If your neighborhood is not yet covered and you’d be willing to share Town e-mails with others, please sign up here.

Finally, please take time to fill out your census form!  Having everyone counted will affect future state and federal funding for our town and, so, is vitally important.  And, be on the lookout for scams and make sure that local seniors are aware of them too.

I am grateful that so many in our community are heeding the call for social distancing by staying home and making changes to daily routines.   I know that these transitions have been hard. Yet I believe that through this experience, we can find opportunities for unique ways to connect as a community.

We will get through this because we are a community who cares and we will bounce back stronger than before this crisis.


Mayor Pam

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Good Neighbor Liaisons

The Town of Chapel Hill is looking for residents who would like to share and exchange information between the Town and residents in their neighborhoods and homeowners associations. Registered participants will receive emails from the Town to share with their neighbors.


Orange County is responsible for establishing emergency shelters due to extreme weather and power outages. For more information, visit

The Inter Faith Council is Chapel Hill’s community house and also provides shelter for those in need. For more information, visit or


Resources in Orange County

American Red Cross

State and National Resources

What is a State of Emergency?

A state of emergency is a procedure that allows emergency processes and funding to be put in place to allow immediate response to emergency situations.
A state of emergency can be declared before or after an emergency takes place in an area. It can be declared at all levels of government (federal, state, and local).
North Carolina State Law , Chapter 166A, Article 1A, Part 4 empowers local governments to enact ordinances to declare states of emergency and restrict certain activities during the emergency in order to address public safety concerns arising due to the emergency.  The Town Code of Ordinances, Chapter 11, Article V, delegates authority to declare a state of emergency to the Mayor.
Often, a local governing body declares a state of emergency ahead of major events that can be anticipated (ex. winter weather and tropical storms) so the resources can be available as early as possible. Sometimes it is necessary to declare a state of emergency due to an unanticipated event such as a large fire, major water main break, or major accident. This declaration is the initial step in accessing state and federal support, should it become necessary.


Do you live in a floodplain?

If you live in a floodplain or an area that floods, purchase flood insurance! Homeowners insurance policies do not cover flood damage. There is a 30-day waiting period from the time an insurance policy is purchased to when it actually goes into effect. Renters can purchase affordable flood insurance for personal contents only. For more information and cost, contact your insurance agent or go to

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