There was swift backlash to North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper’s decision to keep the state in the current phase of COVID-19 restrictions for 3 more weeks.
Citing a rise in cases, the North Carolina Gov. announced that he would not be lifting any of the phase two restrictions meant to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
“North Carolina is relying on the data and the science to lift restrictions responsibly, and right now, our increasing numbers show we need to hit the pause button while we work to stabilize our trends,” Cooper said during a news briefing. “We need to all work together so we can protect our families and neighbors, restore our economy, and get people back to work and our children back to school.”
The North Carolina House took little time to show opposition to the decision.
House members tried to overturn Cooper’s veto of House Bill 594, which would have reopened bars and gyms, before the governor had time to clear his news conference Wednesday. Without a three-fifths vote, however, the override failed, 66-53.
North Carolina moved into phase two of reopening May 22, which was supposed to include the limited opening of restaurants, bars, fitness centers, personal care services and playgrounds, according to Cooper’s plan. However, bars, gyms, fitness facilities and playgrounds were left out of the governor’s executive order, which was set to expire Friday.
The General Assembly has passed four bills that would allow limited reopenings of the businesses that have not been allowed to reopen and ease restrictions on others. Cooper has vetoed two of them, as the Washington Examiner reported.
House members hotly debated the veto override of HB 594 on Wednesday.
“This is about people’s jobs, their livelihood and their sanity,” Rep. Michael Speciale, R-Craven, said. “And there isn’t anybody in this room that can honestly tell me there is a justification for keeping them closed.”
Cooper extended the phase two executive order until July 15 and added a face-covering mandate.
With trends in the outbreak steadily increasing, Cooper fears the state’s hospitals could end up overburdened.
Dr. Mandy Cohen, secretary of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS), said that the percent of positive tests and the number of lab-confirmed cases, hospitalizations and emergency room visits for COVID-19-like symptoms have stayed on an incline for 14 days.
As of Wednesday, 906 people are hospitalized with COVID-19, NCDHHS reported, 300 more than the same time last month.
Senate Leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, wasn’t very supportive.
“In Roy Cooper’s North Carolina, the Governor can walk with a group of protesters with no mask on, but you can’t take your son or daughter to a playground,” Berger said in a statement. “Rioters can break windows and set fires with impunity, but you can’t exercise on an elliptical machine. We’re assured that masses of mask-less people gathered together in the streets caused no rise in cases, yet we’re now all required to wear masks because the danger is too great.
“The inconsistencies and hypocrisy continue to eat away at the trust in and credibility of this administration.”
The North Carolina Bar and Tavern Association filed a lawsuit against Cooper on June 4 on behalf of 185 private bar owners, demanding they get the same treatment as restaurants and other businesses that were allowed to reopen. The is case still pending.
The association argues patrons who are at restaurant bars could follow social distance requirements better if they had more places to drink.
“The governor’s decision is effectively signing a death warrant for 1,063 bars across North Carolina while offering zero relief to the small-business owners or their employees,” said Zack Medford, the association president.