COVID Is Surging in NC. But Republicans Want to Resume Fourth of July Fireworks and Parades

House Speaker Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, left, speaks with Rep. Michael Speciale, R-Craven, wearing colonial attire, in this April file photo. Lawmakers like Speciale have framed coronavirus as a debate over constitutional liberties. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

By patmoran

June 25, 2020

Gov. Cooper is imposing a mandatory mask rule and slowing his plan to ease social distancing orders. But GOP state lawmakers are bullish on reopening.

In their fourth and fifth attempts to override Gov. Roy Cooper’s executive orders, the North Carolina House passed a pair of bills Tuesday which would lift restrictions meant to stem the spread of COVID-19.

House Bill 258 would reopen shuttered arcades, amusement parks and reception halls. House Bill 686 would circumvent current restrictions on Fourth of July parades and firework displays.

Entitled the “Freedom to Celebrate the Fourth of July Act,” House Bill 686 would apply to parades or firework displays scheduled between 5 p.m. July 1 and 5 p.m. July 10.

Cooper’s current executive order, set to expire Friday, limits gatherings to no more than 25 people.

House Minority Leader Darren Jackson, a Wake County Democrat, professed to love Fourth of July celebrations, but at the same time he advocated caution.

“Just this one year, I think it’s OK to take a break from [holiday celebrations] in order to keep the virus under control,” Jackson said.

As of Wednesday, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services reported 58,174 lab-confirmed cases of the disease, with 906 people currently hospitalized, and 1,251 dead.

With health care leaders cautioning officials against large public gatherings, Fourth of July parades and fireworks displays have been canceled in cities across North Carolina, including Asheville, Durham, Raleigh, Greensboro and Charlotte.  

House Bill 258 would allow arcades, amusement parks and arcades to reopen at 50% capacity.

House Majority leader Tim Moore, a Cleveland County Republican, sought to tie his support of the bill with criticism of Black Lives Matter protests sweeping the state and country in the aftermath of Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin’s killing of George Floyd.

“Family businesses across North Carolina are hanging by a thread because of Governor Cooper’s scattershot executive orders and the lawless mobs he’s allowed to ransack our cities and towns,” Moore said in a statement.

The Governor has already squashed two previous bills designed to overturn his executive orders. The first bill would have increased restaurants’ seating. The House has scheduled an override vote Wednesday on the second vetoed bill that would have opened bars and gyms.

Another bill pushed by the GOP, which would reopen skating rinks and bowling alleys, still sits on Cooper’s desk.

Earlier Wednesday, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont and New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy announced a mandatory 14-day quarantine for anyone traveling from nine states with high infection rates. North Carolina is one of those states.


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