News: Quick Takes

Cooper, in extending state of emergency, pushes federal money, takes swipe at Bush

N.C. may have already reached "herd immunity."

Gov. Roy Cooper has issued a string of executive orders since the start of the pandemic last March. (CJ photo by Maya Reagan)
Gov. Roy Cooper has issued a string of executive orders since the start of the pandemic last March. (CJ photo by Maya Reagan)

Gov. Roy Cooper, in extending North Carolina’s interminable state of emergency last week, says the latest executive order makes it easier for the state to access federal funding, including FEMA Public Assistance reimbursements.

Cooper, a Democrat, issued his first executive order of the pandemic in March 2020, at the time implementing an interminable state of emergency, a move typically reserved for hurricanes and other natural disasters. Efforts, through legislation and lawsuit, continue as lawmakers and business people seek to end Cooper’s — and future governor’s — unchecked powers.

On Friday, June 11, Cooper issued another order in the long series. His latest move extends the mask mandate for schools, health care facilities, prisons, and on public transportation. The new order runs through July 30, even as North Carolina neighbors Virginia and South Carolina are nixing their states of emergency.

A news release from the governor says the string of executive orders are meant to “protect North Carolinians from COVID-19, increase access to testing and vaccine supplies, PPE and other equipment, and draw down federal funds.”

Cooper also appears to take a swipe at former Republican President George W. Bush, who, on May 1, 2003, said in a speech aboard the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln that the U.S. had prevailed in Iraq. Bush still continues to take heat over a banner on the ship that read, “Mission Accomplished.” The war went on for another eight years.

“We are seeing tremendous improvement with fewer cases, hospitalizations, deaths, and safety restrictions, but this is no time to hang up a ‘Mission Accomplished’ banner in our fight against the pandemic,” Cooper said. “We are laser-focused on getting more shots in arms, boosting our economy, and protecting unvaccinated people from the virus and this Executive Order is essential for those efforts.” 

The state of emergency allows critical regulatory flexibility for the state health department to increase the number of people authorized to administer vaccines and COVID-19 tests and for the movement of COVID-19 patients in rehab and other facilities, the release says.

Cooper has said the pandemic is unprecedented in scope and that safety measures need to continue to keep North Carolinians safe.

More than 80% of people over age 65, the group at high risk for complications from COVID-19, have had at least one dose of the vaccine.  Among state residents in general, 54% have had at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, and the number of positive COVID tests is the lowest it’s been since before the pandemic. Still, Cooper is promoting the vaccine by enticing reticent residents with cash cards, million-dollar drawings, and academic scholarships.

Cooper has continued to move the proverbial goalposts as they relate to the pandemic. Originally, Cooper and health officials said a goal was getting less than 5% of COVID tests returning positive. He then said he wanted two-thirds of the state’s adult residents vaccinated before easing restrictions, though he came off that edict when the Centers for Disease Control loosened restrictions on mask-wearing.

As of Friday, just 1.6% of the tests returned positive, and the vaccination numbers remain stagnant.

Jon Sanders, in a recent opinion piece, argues that North Carolina may have already reached herd immunity, meaning a significant number of residents have developed a natural immunity from COVID-19.

Sanders is the research editor and senior fellow, Regulatory Studies, at the John Locke Foundation.

“North Carolina,” Sanders writes, “is very likely at herd immunity from COVID. If not yet, we will be very soon. It is evident by the state’s rapidly falling numbers of new cases and hospitalizations, as well as its Threat-Free Index hitting 99.9%. Community immunity is very good news for North Carolinians.

“It also means that there is absolutely no rationale for Cooper to keep North Carolinians under a “state of emergency,’” let alone continue to force children to wear face masks in schools and summer camps.”