Gov. Cooper says relaxing NC stay-at-home orders would cause ‘catastrophe’ amid COVID-19

State - Regional

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Gov. Roy Cooper says lifting his executive orders now to combat COVID-19 would be a “catastrophe,” as experts say it would increase the likelihood of hospitals exceeding capacity next month.

The governor made the comments Monday as a social media campaign is underway using the hashtag #ReopenNC, with organizers calling for Cooper to immediately suspend the executive orders.

“We continue to see the spread of the virus accelerate through North Carolina but at a much slower pace because people are following the executive orders on social distancing,” Cooper said. “These models show consistently that our executive orders work and that wholesale lifting of those orders would be a catastrophe.”

New restrictions on retailers such as grocery and home improvement stores went into effect Monday evening, requiring them to limit the number of people inside, mark six feet of space at checkout counters and busy areas and to disinfect regularly.

Ashley Smith, one of the founders of the #ReopenNC group, said business owners should “be allowed to exercise their rights to open back up for business.”

She’s calling on the governor to lift the executive orders immediately. If he won’t, then she’s calling for him not to extend the stay-at-home order past April 29, when it’s set to run out.

“I just really felt like enough is enough, and it’s time to take action and to stand up with our voices and be heard,” Smith said.

She said a group is planning a demonstration Tuesday morning outside the legislative building. She said people will either be in their cars or in groups smaller than 10, holding signs and standing six feet apart.

Cooper said Monday when the stay-at-home order ends later this month, “We know we will have to put in place new executive orders at the end of the month because the ones that are there run out. That’s why I’m encouraging people to work very hard  during these next couple of weeks to help us flatten this curve.”

In a report released last week (click here to read), a research team advising state leaders team projected an increased likelihood of hospitals running out of beds early next month if social distancing measures are suddenly relaxed at the end of April.

The team is comprised of experts from UNC, Duke, RTI International, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of NC and NoviSci. The group said they looked at data specific to North Carolina in forming their projections.

“The slower this disease goes through your communities, the safer we will be. The less people will die,” Dr. Pia MacDonald, of RTI International, told CBS17. “The quicker this moves through our communities, the quicker we will run out of beds.”

On Monday morning, the conservative group Civitas Action called on Cooper to give a more detailed plan for how he proposed to reopen parts of the state’s economy impacted by COVID-19 once it’s safe to do so.

“We are not asking him for a deadline. We are not asking for a date certain. But, we think that the business community and a lot of workers, hundreds of thousands of workers in North Carolina, need some certainty on when they might be able to get a paycheck again,” said Donald Bryson, president of Civitas Action. “We can talk about more than one thing at a time. We can be simultaneously concerned about public health and talk about how to reopen our economy.”

Later Monday, the governors of California, Oregon and Washington announced they’re working together on a strategy to reopen.

CBS17 asked Cooper about what that process will be in North Carolina.

“Right now our team is looking at statistics,” Cooper said, citing deaths, new infections and hospitalizations. “A lot of families are suffering because they’ve lost loved ones.”

“Obviously, we want a leveling off to the point of feeling comfortable about easing some of the restrictions,” Cooper said. “And, we’re going to work, already are working, with the business community, people who work in restaurants and bars, our public schools, people who getting ready to go to summer camp. We’re talking to all of those businesses about where they are, what their capacities are. Would it help you if we eased up on a rule a particular way, and could you still keep a safe business and not transfer the virus but be able to operate and earn a profit? Those are the kinds of discussions that are going on right now. And, we’re hoping that these next two weeks are good so that we can have some positive results on the kinds of changes we would make in the current restrictions.”

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