Opinion: CJ Opinion

So, governor, who’s playing politics now?

If more people are getting vaccinated because of the governor’s handouts and giveaways, I sure can’t tell.

Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, is handing out gift cards in specific counties, and he’s holding lotteries offering cash prizes and college tuition. Not with his money, of course.

For the hundredth time, people who wanted a vaccine have gotten a vaccine. People who don’t want a vaccine haven’t gotten — and won’t get — a vaccine. Or, as some prefer to call it, an inoculation.

The state’s vaccination rates are, so it seems, plodding along like a Galapagos tortoise on a hot summer day. Further, the state’s vaccination numbers, according to national tracking sites, including the Mayo Clinic, show the state lagging behind, just a few ticks above the national average.

Mayo says about 44% of N.C. residents — everyone — have received at least a first shot. Only 38% are fully vaccinated, rivaling Arizona, which has a Republican governor and is comparable in population. Forty-eight percent of that state’s residents have gotten at least one dose. In Florida, with a Republican governor excoriated for his anti-suppression stance, almost 43% of state residents — population: more than 20 million — are fully vaccinated.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, writes Bloomberg, is the clear “pandemic winner.” DeSantis, writes Bloomberg, was one of the last governors to issue a stay-at-home order, which he did only after weeks of unrelenting criticism and one of the first to reopen.”

DeSantis is, not shockingly, a leading candidate for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination.

“Many public health officials predicted that his policies would be disastrous,” writes Bloomberg. “His critics took to calling him #DeathSantis. But they were wrong.”

Becker’s Hospital Review puts North Carolina at 37th in terms of vaccinations among states. Florida is 27th, and Vermont,  albeit with a relatively tiny population, is first, at nearly 63%. New York is a respectable 11th, though that should be disappointing considering all the hullaballoo around the media’s perceived stellar leadership by liberal Gov. Andrew Cuomo. In reality, the now-embattled governor endangered residents’ safety and did his darndest to destroy the state’s economy.

I reached out to DHHS for comment and, to its credit, a spokeswoman emailed a response. Cooper’s office, on the other hand, refuses to respond to our requests, no matter how benign they may be.

There are many reasons why more than 45% of adults in North Carolinian have not taken their shot yet,” DHHS says. “Some people may need help covering the cost of taking time away from work and for transportation. The Summer Cash Cards are one way we are addressing those challenges. Some may need an extra reason to stop waiting. The chance to win a million dollars or $125,000 toward post-secondary education through the Summer Cash Drawing program might be that reason. Others want to hear from people that they know about vaccinations. 

“So,” the spokeswoman continues, “if you’ve been vaccinated, please talk to your friends and family about your experience, share why you got vaccinated. These conversations are helping people to decide to get the vaccine. Vaccines are the best way we can all safely get back to the people, places, and activities we love.”

I don’t disagree. I got a shot as soon as I could, but it was a personal choice, the best decision, in my mind, for me and my family. I encourage others to do the same.

My beef isn’t with health officials, by any stretch. It’s with the governor, who issued his first state of emergency in March 2020 and dozens of COVID-related proclamations since. 

But here we are. 

Cooper keeps the emergency order in place, I believe, because it can lead to more federal —read, taxpayer — money for North Carolina, and he enjoys the power trip. The scale of vaccinations has peaked, yet the freebies and enticements continue. It’s time to move on, to stop harping on the vaccinations and the state’s efforts to get them into as many arms as possible.

Democrats have addressed the pandemic with pedantic lecturing, nonsensical rules, lockdowns, and, to be honest, threats and intimidation. All under the guise of “keeping us safe.”

An uneven trade, at best.

Republicans, conversely, have generally relied on common sense, tilting the scales of justice toward protecting individual liberties, and people’s right to choose.

It shouldn’t be political, yet Republicans have endured more than a little vitriol as mainstream media — including the local “nonpartisan” outlets — have relentlessly scolded them for ignoring the scare tactics and for neglecting public health.

The results are in. So, who’s playing politics now?