A message from Ocracoke Commissioner Tom Pahl
You may be reading this as you are making plans to come to Ocracoke, or you may already have arrived in the village. Either way, we want you to know that we welcome you and we want your visit to be relaxing and full of great memories and great experiences. It is what Ocracoke does best.
This past year has been a challenge. Not only are we dealing with the COVID-19 virus, as you are in your own communities, but eight months ago we were hit with the worst hurricane to come ashore on Ocracoke Island since the hurricane of ’44. Over 40% of our full-time residents were displaced from their homes and many of those are still not able to return, as the work to rebuild continues.
Things will look different. We lost a lot of our precious trees and the availability of restaurants and shops and cottages is limited. More than 40 buildings suffered so much damage that they have been demolished. The good news is that no lives were lost despite some harrowing experiences during the storm. The recovery has brought out the best of Ocracoke. We have benefitted from the great generosity of many of our NRPOs who donated the use of their homes to displaced residents. Gifts of care from near and far have buoyed our recovery and we are proudly “Ocracoke Strong.”
Just as we were beginning to see the bright light of spring ahead, we were confronted with a new challenge: the COVID-19 virus. Unlike the hurricane, which was a local crisis, COVID-19 is a global challenge and we are just a small piece of a global response. But it has had local impacts, including travel restrictions that are soon to be lifted and a broad set of guidelines meant to assure everyone’s safety on the island.
First, and most importantly, if anyone in your group shows any signs of respiratory symptoms – like a cough or sore throat, or a fever–we are requiring that your entire party immediately return home and seek medical advice from your regular care provider. This is for your benefit as well as for your friends in Ocracoke. We have only one doctor and just a daytime medical clinic. We have only one on-duty ambulance crew, no pharmacy, and a very limited COVID-specific response. Please, for your sake and ours, seek care with your regular doctor as soon as you can get there. And please notify your cottage/hotel manager by phone, so that they can take extra precautions in their cleaning protocol.
We are asking that you practice social distancing as you visit throughout the village. Keep six feet apart from others, wear a face mask when you go into shops and while you’re waiting for to-go food. (Even us guys? Yes, even guys can wear face masks!) You can call and order ahead for groceries to be brought out to your car. And, of course, wash your hands often.
Residents, NRPO’s, visitors, workforce, businesses…. We’re all in this together. Please be patient and respectful with one another. Go to the beach, take walks, enjoy the sunsets, eat good food, let the sea breeze blow through your hair, take a deep breath, and be joyful that we can be here one more time.