Cooper Extends Coronavirus Measures Into September, Pledging Not to Repeat Other States’ Mistakes

Medical personnel handle test samples at a community coronavirus testing site operated by Cone Health and the county Health Department in Burlington, N.C. in July. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

By Jesse James DeConto

August 5, 2020

Extended orders will maintain social distancing orders past Labor Day weekend, keeping bars, gyms and entertainment venues closed.

North Carolina’s number of coronavirus cases is stable, but Gov. Roy Cooper announced Wednesday that North Carolina needs to see the impact of students and teachers going back to school over the next five weeks before loosening protective restrictions.

Cooper said he’s not going to make the same mistake as other states that have eased restrictions only to have to retighten them when COVID-19 cases increased. 

“Stable is good, but decreasing is better,” Cooper said. “While we are seeing stabilization of our numbers, that doesn’t mean we’re going to let up. One of the things we don’t want to do is to go backward.”

To that end, Cooper said the state will remain in Phase 2 of reopening until at least Sept. 11, maintaining restrictions on masks, social distancing, and some commercial activities for another five weeks. Bars, gyms, and entertainment venues like movie theaters will also remain closed.

The governor said he’s hopeful the state will be able to ease restrictions at some point before Americans can be widely vaccinated against the coronavirus. 

“They are more than numbers on a chart. They are North Carolinians who are missed dearly.” 

Gov. Roy Cooper on NC surpassing 2,000 coronavirus deaths

“There are ways to control the spread of this virus,” he said. “We can drive down these numbers. Obviously, we all want a vaccine, and I’m proud of people and companies in North Carolina who are working on it.”

Cooper called reaching 2,000 COVID deaths in NC a “solemn benchmark.”

“They are more than numbers on a chart,” he said. “They are North Carolinians who are missed dearly.” 

N.C. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen framed schools and colleges reopening as a particular test-case for whether mask-wearing, hygiene and social distancing can keep the numbers down even as students, faculty and staff break quarantines.  

“Many places are experiencing exactly the opposite, trends going in the wrong direction because of premature reopening,” Cohen said. “Any type of gathering of people has a risk of viral spread.”

While no school district is returning completely to in-person learning, many are taking the state’s hybrid Plan B approach in which the upcoming school-year will combine online learning with some face-to-face instruction at reduced capacity. Others plan remote-only instruction, at least to start the year. 

“These are not activities with no risk,” Cohen said. “There is risk. The virus is with us. It is in our communities. We still have much work to do. We all need to do right by our students and protect our communities.”

Cohen encouraged anyone with COVID-like symptoms or possible exposure to get tested at one of 500 facilities across the state. She reiterated that the “three Ws” of wearing masks over your nose and mouth; waiting at business or public facilities at least six feet apart; and washing hands frequently.

“Retailers have been doing a better job enforcing mask-wearing,” Cooper said.  “I’ve been heartened to see that many of them are working hard to require masks and social distancing.”

‘The RNC has changed its mind an awful lot.’

Cooper said North Carolina may even be able to host a safe gathering of the Republican National Convention, which had been planned for later this month in Charlotte, then appeared to be heading to Jacksonville, Fla., before COVID cases spiked in that state.

On Wednesday, incumbent Donald Trump said he might accept the presidential nomination via a speech from the White House instead of the traditional convention arena.

“The RNC has changed its mind an awful lot,” Cooper said. “We remain ready and willing to work with them.”

Cooper said his own re-election campaign will not be holding physical events.

“We do not recommend that,” he said. “If you’re having these kinds of gatherings, you’re risking the spread of the virus, particularly if you don’t wear masks and you don’t practice social-distancing.” 


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