Republican Council of State members want to meet with Gov. Roy Cooper “as soon as possible” to discuss reopening the state’s economy.
“We all understand that the shelter-in-place cannot exist forever,” the GOP members said in an emailed message to Cooper. “With the rest of the Southeast, and the majority of our country already providing structure and clarity to struggling businesses and workers, North Carolina is lagging in communication.”
Cooper’s office was not immediately available for comment.
But he responded to questions about the letter during a press conference Tuesday.
“We’re going rely on the science and the facts tell us when to reopen,” Cooper said. “I know that people are hurting because of this virus and I know that our economy is hurting because of this virus. But the health of our people and the health of our economy go hand in hand.”
He said that his administration has offered to set up a meeting with Council of State about the COVID-19 crisis.
“We look forward to doing that,” Cooper said.
The message from Republicans is signed by Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, who is challenging Cooper for the governor’s seat in November. Commissioner of Agriculture Steve Troxler, Commissioner of Insurance Mike Causey, Commissioner of Labor Cherie Berry and Superintendent of Public Instruction Mark Johnson also signed the message.
It’s dated May 12, the same day Dr. Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health, warned lawmakers in Washington that there could be a surge of COVID-19 cases if states, cities and regions reopen too soon.
The five GOP Council of State members here said businesses in North Carolina are ready to reopen. They said their offices are being “flooded with phone calls” from businesses owners who expected to open May 1.
“Now, you [Cooper] are telling them that they have to wait at least another two weeks, with minimal guidance from you,” they wrote.
The Republican Council of State members are the majority.
“We are asking that you convene the Council of State as soon as possible so that we understand your plan for North Carolina,” they said. “We also need the ability to provide clarity to businesses across our state that are dangerously close to permanently closing. And we need clarity as to why you aren’t allowing specific industries to open as our neighboring states have done.
The Republicans were critical of the Cooper administration’s handling of 1 million unemployment claims filed since March when nonessential businesses were ordered closed.
“It is heartbreaking to hear the unending high volume of phone calls many of us receive daily from hopeless citizens down to their last dollars,” they said. “There are numerous ways to protect lives and livelihoods while allowing healthy North Carolina citizens to return to work and giving them the ability to provide for themselves and their families.”
Cooper is following White House guidance for reopening states.
But the five Republican noted that the guidance coming from Washington is not law and that governors have flexibility in deciding when to reopen states.
“The fact that North Carolina is faring better in cases and deaths on a per capita level than the rest of the nation, and the majority of deaths are from government-regulated congregant living centers, proves that our citizens can properly social distance and abide by COVID-19 business regulations,” the letter said.
Nearly 600 people have died from the coronavirus in North Carolina and at least 15,591 have tested positive for the virus.