This week marks the two-year anniversary of Gov. Roy Cooper’s state of emergency order due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Now, all 69 members of the N.C. House Republican caucus have signed a letter calling on Cooper to rescind the order and “allow the state to move forward.”
The move comes as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced an end to its indoor masking recommendation. Across North Carolina, local municipalities and school systems are dropping mask mandates as COVID-19 infection rates continue to plummet. The number of daily infections dipped from 44,833 cases on Jan. 13 to 1,231 cases on March 1, according to the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services.
“After two years of executive orders that shut down businesses, restricted gatherings, closed schools, and mandated masks, the people of North Carolina are more than ready to move on,” the letter states.
“Simply put, there is no emergency. Yet, there is still no plan or exit strategy set forth by your Administration outlining how and when the nearly two-year state of emergency can be lifted. The people of North Carolina should not have to live under the continued threat and uncertainty of new emergency executive actions and restrictions that have severely impacted and limited their lives for the past two years.”
Cooper issued his first executive order of the pandemic on March 10, 2020, at the time implementing an interminable state of emergency, a move typically reserved for hurricanes and other natural disasters.
Republican lawmakers have tried to rein in a governor’s powers through legislation, and finally did so with a provision in Senate Bill 105, the state budget bill, which Cooper signed. Those reforms, however, don’t kick in until Jan. 1 of next year. Earlier legislation, including House Bill 264, Emergency Powers Accountability Act, would have required the governor to receive concurrence from the 10-member elected Council of State for an emergency declaration of more than seven days, and legislative approval for it to extend beyond 45 days. Cooper vetoed the bill in November.
“After two years, it’s beyond absurd to believe we are still in the ‘emergency’ phase of COVID,” said Brian Balfour, senior vice president of research at the John Locke Foundation. “Governor Cooper, who skirted required Council of State approval to declare the emergency in the first place, should end this farce of a ‘state of emergency’ now to remove any remaining uncertainty over what measures he may decide to next impose on the people of North Carolina.”
Cooper has refused to rescind the order due to allowing health care agencies continued access to emergency funds from state and federal pools they would otherwise not get.
Cooper’s press office did not respond to a request for comment.