As protesters demonstrated against Gov. Roy Cooper’s stay-at-home order Tuesday, NC House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) said re-opening the state during a pandemic will have to be done carefully — and not immediately.
His comments came during a virtual “Power Lunch” organized by the Greenville-Pitt County Chamber of Commerce, held by video conference.
“I can see them and hear them,” Moore said of the protesters outside his office at the Legislative Building. “They’re going around the building right now and I think there are a couple helicopters circling. We’re right here in the middle of it.”
Moore said he understands the frustration of the protesters and so many North Carolinians who have lost jobs and had their lives upended by the social distancing measures the state has taken to slow the spread of COVID-19.
“I just think there has to be a very, very careful balance between the ‘reopen North Carolina’ and between making sure it is a measured process,” Moore said.
“What I think we have is we just simply have to have metrics in place,” Moore said. “You can establish a guideline that says, ‘Okay, if on this date the rate of infections is this number and hospitalizations are this number and the fatalities are this number, and the availability of the protective equipment is this number — and again these are numbers that should be put together by health care professionals, in consultation with elected officials — put those together and simply make an assessment, real-time every day, of where you’re moving.”
South Carolina and Georgia have done that, Moore said, but each state and region is different.
“The rate of this disease, the spread of it, is not the same across the country,” Moore said. “You clearly have some very significant hotspots right now — New York City being the one we’re all seeing every evening on the news. But others as well — Washington, San Francisco, generally the urban areas that are more densely populated. And I would submit to you, you can look around our state. The more rural areas, where you have folks spread out, you’re going to have less spread than if you’re in the urban area. If you’re in Hyde County, where you probably got more bears than people, you’re probably in less danger than if you’re in Durham County.”
It would be appropriate to look at the problem regionally and give local governments and public health officials more latitude in deciding what sort of social distancing is necessary, Moore said.
“It may not be a one size fits all,” Moore said.
Moore said he’s suggested that the governor establish metrics for deciding when to reopen businesses around the state.
“But not just going from zero to 100,” Moore said. “Something where you have, say, 50 percent occupancy at a restaurant … that you put in guidelines about wearing masks, sanitization of tools.”
Reopening should be done in a thoughtful way, Moore said, with “nobody just being a cowboy out there” but instead consulting with health care experts about what is appropriate.
In the meantime, he said, lawmakers understand that businesses — especially small businesses — are feeling the pain of staying closed for an extended period. The House Select Committee on COVID-19 and its work groups are now preparing draft bills to address the pandemic and its effects, Moore said, and expect to pass them shortly after the General Assembly returns to Raleigh on April 28.