‘These Aren’t Just Numbers’: Cooper Slams Senate Plan to Reopen Bars as NC Coronavirus Deaths Hit New High

Gov. Roy Cooper, at the podium, and NC DHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen. (Photo by Dept. of Public Safety)

By Billy Ball

May 28, 2020

Six days into Phase 2 of North Carolina’s gradual reopening, coronavirus cases surpass 25,000. 

Six days into Phase 2 of North Carolina’s reopening plan, the state has set highs in new coronavirus deaths and hospitalizations.

NC officials reported Thursday morning that the state could confirm 33 new deaths and a total of 708 hospitalizations, both highs during the COVID-19 pandemic. The total number of deaths in NC is 827. (See below for the NC Department of Health and Human Services’ rundown of the new figures).

“These aren’t just numbers,” Gov. Roy Cooper told reporters Thursday afternoon. “They’re people who died.”

RELATED: N.C. Is Taking It Slow on Reopening. Here’s How That Compares to Our Neighbors.

The state’s coronavirus figures have been surging in recent days while Cooper’s administration eases some social distancing restrictions, including lifting a ban on dining in at restaurants and service at salons and pools. 

Cooper has described their move as a modest step, although it has fetched criticism from some who think the governor is reopening too quickly and others who think Cooper is moving too slowly.

“On the day that we’re seeing the highest number of hospitalizations and deaths, the Senate wants to open bars.”

Gov. Roy Cooper

Lawmakers in the state Senate voted Thursday to reopen bars for outdoor service. Sen. Rick Gunn, the Republican who sponsored the bill, called it a “lineline” to businesses on Twitter Thursday. 

The vote enjoyed support from Republicans and Democrats in the Senate, although Cooper blasted the proposal.

“On the day that we’re seeing the highest number of hospitalizations and deaths, the Senate wants to open bars,” said Cooper, adding that he understands it is a “tough time” for business.

“I believe there will be a time when we can open bars, but that time is not now,” said Cooper.

NC’s spike in new cases, which totaled 25,412 cases Thursday morning, has been accompanied by an increase in new testing. Indeed, CVS announced 55 new drive-thru testing sites across the state Thursday as private labs ramp up their activity. 

Positive tests as a percentage of all tests has been trending upward in the last two weeks as well. Today, it sits at about 8%. 

“This is why we’re in Phase 2 right now instead of opening everything up,” said Cooper Thursday. “This is why we think we need to stay in Phase 2 for a while to see how these numbers go.”

Cooper said his office is considering ways to boost testing in some underserved regions, pointing out that Latinx and Black North Carolinians have accounted for a disproportionate number of coronavirus cases and deaths compared to their relative percentage of the population. 

“COVID-19 is shining a bright light on longstanding inequalities that we have in health care,” the governor said. 

Source: NC Department of Health and Human Services

Author

  • 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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