News: Quick Takes

Cooper extends Phase 3 through February, even as businesses struggle and close

Gov. Roy Cooper at a July 2020 COVID-19 news briefing. (Pool photo)
Gov. Roy Cooper at a July 2020 COVID-19 news briefing. (Pool photo)

Gov. Roy Cooper on Wednesday, Jan. 27, said North Carolina is entering a time of hope as COVID-19 numbers are leveling and more vaccines become available.

Try telling that to the scores of businesses that have closed, entered into bankruptcy, laid off staff, or have fallen into tremendous debt simply trying to stay afloat.

“The virus is still raging through our communities,” said Cooper, who also warned of a more contagious variant of the virus now identified in North Carolina.

North Carolina since October has been stuck in the mythical Phase 3 of Cooper’s reopening plans, and Cooper extended that further Wednesday, including a 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew, limits on social gatherings, and crippling limits on certain businesses, including bars.

That order continues until Feb. 28. Cooper also extended the moratorium on evictions, which also handicaps landlords who are losing money because people can’t or won’t pay rent. Cooper also extended an order allowing bars and restaurants to sell sealed containers of mixed beverages to-go through March 31.

Cooper said little about reopening public schools, even as studies indicate students are suffering from a lack of in-person instruction. Pressure from myriad parties are converging on state officials to devise a plan to safely reopen

Dr. Mandy Cohen, the state health secretary, said North Carolina will stay the course on its vaccination plan, which now entails offering vaccines to people 65 and older. The state has administered 99% of all first doses received, she said, and the federal government has promised to increase shipments to North Carolina by 16%.

The state has moved beyond the holiday spike in cases, Cohen said, but rates of infection and hospitalizations remain worrisome.

“Even with this increase, demand for vaccines vastly exceeds our supply,” she said.