Opinion: CJ Opinion

We won’t get there: Cooper’s vaccine mandates are ‘shockingly silly’

Gov. Roy Cooper and DHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen enter a COVID-19 news briefing Dec. 1. (Pool photo)
Gov. Roy Cooper and DHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen enter a COVID-19 news briefing Dec. 1. (Pool photo)

A decision by the governor and his health secretary to further ease state lockdowns only when two-thirds of adults are vaccinated is shockingly silly.

I wrote that last week.

It’s silly because, not only is it wide government overreach, it’s possibly unconstitutional, as is the idea of vaccination “passports.” More than anything, it’s silly because — as vaccinations slow across the state — it’s not going to happen.

It is about politics, but only tangentially. Fundamentally, it’s about a mindset, about competing ideologies and values. It’s about freedom, a right and a power so precious to Americans they’ve died to keep it.

That Gov. Roy Cooper would elicit a misguided idea such as the two-thirds mandate shows he’s bowing to his liberal constituency or has no idea about the people he was elected to govern. 

The urban areas and cities — Charlotte, Raleigh, Asheville, etc. — are population centers and lean hard to the left. The state’s small towns and rural areas lean right. I’m guessing Cooper, who sees himself as a country boy from Nashville, N.C., understands these residents. He feels their wide-knuckle grasp on liberty and individual freedoms. He knows about their bright-white commitments to family and faith.

He just chooses to ignore them — these people. These die-hard North Carolinians. 

Such as those, from — oh, I don’t know — Nash County, where 25% of the eligible population is fully vaccinated. Or, going west to Wilkes County, where just 22.5% are fully vaccinated. Stokes is at 21.5%, and Onslow, home to Camp Lejeune, is about 14%. In Cumberland County, with Fayetteville and Fort Bragg, 16.5% of the population is fully vaccinated.

Compare those with the larger, more liberal population centers. 

In Buncombe County, i.e. Asheville, 31.5% of the population is fully vaccinated. In New Hanover County, it’s 32%, about the same for Wake. Guilford and Forsyth counties are close to 30%. Mecklenburg, though, is a bit of an outlier, around 24%. As of Tuesday, May 4, just 42% of state residents 18 and older were fully vaccinated.

Even thinking we’ll get to two-thirds — 66% — of the state fully vaccinated is, generously speaking, ludicrous. For myriad reasons. There are the COVID deniers. And those afraid of getting sick. Those who think it’s all a plot against America.

David A. Graham of The Atlantic writes of a vaccine study during the H1N1 pandemic. Researchers then found widespread hesitation, as “nearly two-thirds of Americans were unwilling to receive a shot. But those qualms were relatively evenly distributed in the population. Older people were more willing to get the vaccine than younger ones, and white and Latino people were more willing than Black people. Democrats were more willing than Republicans, but the spread was small.”

Twelve or so years later comes COVID, and, Graham writes, health officials initially worried about hesitancy among black Americans.

“Instead, young conservatives are the great outlier. According to Kaiser Family Foundation polling, 13% of Americans say they definitely won’t get a COVID-19 vaccine, but that includes 18% of people 30 to 49, and a whopping 29% of Republicans.”

This is key.

“Hesitancy is particularly high among people who live in rural areas and white evangelicals — for whom increased church attendance correlates with increased hesitancy, according to a survey from the Public Religion Research Institute.”

Expect the idea of a vaccine passport to spark the next nasty COVID firefight, in North Carolina and beyond. Cooper appears to support the idea.

Republicans certainly do not. Senate Leader Phil Berger’s political site, for instance, called the idea “a dangerous and totalitarian idea that infringes on your right to medical privacy.”

An essay in American Greatness, Graham writes, said this: “My primary reason for refusing the vaccine is much simpler [than worries about personal liberty or medical complications]: I dislike the people who want me to take it, and it makes them mad when they hear about my refusal.”

Mandates and executive orders won’t persuade them to think otherwise.