Opinion: CJ Opinion

Cooper doesn’t seem to get it, even as he vows to loosen most restrictions June 1

Gov. Roy Cooper looks on during an April 30, 2020 press conference with N.C. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen. (Government file photo)
Gov. Roy Cooper looks on during an April 30, 2020 press conference with N.C. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen. (Government file photo)

It seems Gov. Roy Cooper doesn’t get out much, meaning outside North Carolina.

A quick trip to South Carolina, for instance, would show a sense of freedom unavailable — from my experience — in Wilmington, Boone, or Raleigh.

Wearing a mask is a personal choice. But I can’t get my head around the need to wear it while walking or running on a wide-open greenway. Or, taking things indoors, I’m still puzzled by the compunction to wipe down a weight-training bench as though preparing it for someone to deliver a baby.

Visit South Carolina, governor. A half hour or so from Charlotte, a city which, being in N.C., requires that people wear masks and to keep 6 feet apart from strangers. S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster, a Republican, lifted the mandate for government buildings and restaurants, as well as restrictions for large gatherings, though he recommends limiting attendance to 50% of a venue’s capacity or 250 people. North Carolina limits indoor gatherings to 50 people.

Florida and Texas, also with Republican governors, are much more — shall we say — free, sans capacity limits and mask mandates. Schools are — and have been — open in both states, without the leniency to continue mostly virtual learning, as Cooper has allowed. Chefs and restaurateurs from leftist states such as New York and California are retreating to Florida, just to do business.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis says this, according to the Wall Street Journal: “We are an oasis of freedom in a nation that’s suffering in many parts of the country under the yoke of oppressive lockdowns,” speaking to a group at the Conservative Political Action Conference in February. “Florida got it right, and the lockdown states got it wrong.”

Cooper, in his first news conference in two weeks Wednesday, April 21, said he will decree the state open June 1, though the mask mandate will remain, in some form.

“North Carolina’s strong safety protocols and actions have been why the state has slowed the surge,” Cooper said of the virus. “Our careful, reasoned approach has worked, striking the right balance.

“We’ve put health and safety first, but we’ve worked with businesses and health professionals to get it right. … “We need to keep being careful and responsible to keep trends down and to save lives.”

As if states with Republican governors don’t care about that.

Cooper, it seems, is basing his COVID moves on the vaccination rate in North Carolina, which, all things being relative, is good. Some 47% of adults in the state have gotten at least one dose of the vaccine, and about 36% are fully vaccinated. People in Texas, South Carolina, and Florida, for example, are, too, getting the shot in relatively high percentages.

Cooper also has floated the idea of a vaccination passport, which Republicans — here and throughout the country — generally reject. As much as 30% of the U.S. population won’t get — refuse to get — the vaccine, for myriad reasons. That’s their prerogative, as it’s supposed to be a free country. Just don’t infringe on my civil liberties and right to live my life as I choose because of someone else’s decision, whatever it might be.

I, and my entire family, are fully vaccinated.

But vaccines aren’t a crutch, governor. Rather, they’re a vital tool in fighting the virus, and most of us realize that, even as common sense and a consensus approach to governing continues to elude this administration.

“We must keep going strong,” Cooper said Wednesday. “We need to keep being responsible.”

We have been, and we are. Now, let’s get back to business. Literally.

Dr. Mandy Cohen, state health secretary, said Wednesday she wants to bring back summer. How nice.

Thing is, Dr. Cohen, it wasn’t yours to take in the first place.