‘I Will Not Risk the Health Of Our People’: Gov. Cooper Extends Stay-At-Home to May 8

Gov. Roy Cooper, in a 2018 AP file photo. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome, File)

By Billy Ball

April 23, 2020

NC faring better than other states in slowing coronavirus, but COVID-19 is still spreading.

North Carolina’s stay-at-home order, set to expire at the end of April, will be extended at least until May 8, Gov. Roy Cooper told reporters Thursday.

Cooper said the state is not yet ready to lift its COVID-19 restrictions, despite evidence that social distancing orders have been effective. 

“It’s clear that we are flattening the curve,” Cooper said. “But our state is not ready to lift restrictions yet. We need more time to slow the spread of the virus before we can begin easing those restrictions.”

Cooper said his administration will also make an announcement Friday afternoon regarding North Carolina’s public schools, which have been closed since March 14

The governor’s extended order comes with COVID-19 infections still on the rise in North Carolina. The state’s Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) reported 388 new cases Thursday. And the virus, which has been detected in 93 of NC’s 100 counties, has killed 253 in the state. 

“I will not risk the health of our people.”

NC Gov. Roy Cooper, addressing critics’ calls to reopen the state, despite COVID-19’s continued spread.

Some, including members of the right-leaning “Reopen NC,” have been demanding Cooper lift those orders immediately. Several hundred protesters, most not wearing masks or following social distancing protocols, rallied in the state capital Tuesday, arguing that the state’s orders are a violation of their civil liberties.

Cooper critics have also pointed to the state’s economic struggles, which mirror those of other states forced to impose social distancing orders to minimize the outbreak of the dangerous virus.

But Cooper rebuffed those arguments Thursday. “I will not risk the health of our people or our hospitals,” he said. “And easing these restrictions would do that. I know people want their lives and their livelihoods back and I have a plan to do that, but first we need to hit certain metrics because the health and safety of our people is first priority.”

DHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen said Thursday that the state will need to see improvements in four areas, including reported COVID-like cases, lab-confirmed cases, positive tests as a percentage of total tests and hospitalizations. 

When NC improves on those metrics, the governor said the state will begin phasing in eased restrictions, which would gradually allow more businesses to open. Cooper said state parks will reopen and the number of people allowed at gatherings will incrementally rise as well.

Cooper emphasized Thursday that the White House is sharing similar guidance with states for lifting their orders. 

Cohen said the trajectory of new cases is “leveling and slightly increasing” in NC, but, in comparison to other states and the national average, NC orders have been effective at limiting coronavirus’ spread.   

“We won’t go back to the way that we lived in January or February anytime soon. We need a vaccine.”

NC Gov. Roy Cooper

“Because of the governor’s aggressive orders, because of your hard work in staying at home, we have not seen a surge of cases,” Cohen said. “We have not seen a peak, we have not seen our healthcare system be overrun.”

“We won’t go back to the way that we lived in January or February anytime soon,” he said. “We need a vaccine.”

State and federal experts say a vaccine remains a year or more away, meaning social distancing is the best tool for combatting COVID-19 for now. 

Epidemiologists told Cooper’s administration in early April that lifting the social distancing orders entirely at the end of the month could triple infections and double the possibility of overrunning health care providers, although it’s unclear whether those estimations have changed in the weeks since. Researchers emphasized that the continuous flow of coronavirus data means predictive models are constantly adjusting.


  • Billy Ball

    Billy Ball is Cardinal & Pine's senior community editor. He’s covered local, state and national politics, government, education, criminal justice, the environment and immigration in North Carolina for almost two decades, winning state, regional and national awards for his reporting and commentary.

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