RALEIGH — Gov. Roy Cooper and Dr. Mandy Cohen, state health secretary, took a decidedly political tone in a COVID-19 news conference Tuesday, Jan. 12.
Both Cooper and Cohen talked of falsehoods and dangerous rhetoric that led an angry mob, upset over the November election, to storm the U.S. Capitol last week. Violent threats against the Capitol — a repeat of last week’s violence — as well as state capitals are circulating ahead of the presidential inauguration next week.
Erik Hooks, state secretary of Public Safety, said law officials are working to ensure North Carolina is “well-positioned” to address protests that may turn violent.
The state leaders also struck similar chords regarding misinformation regarding the use of masks and other safety precautions to prevent COVID-19.
“Words matter,” Cooper said.
Cohen introduced a new video touting the safety of the vaccines and promoting the ubiquitous three Ws — wear, wait, and wash — in an effort to better relay their message about the pandemic.
It’s a dire situation, Cooper said.
The rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine in North Carolina is crawling along, with Cooper calling U.S. supply “severely limited.” Still, he said, the state is seeing a steady increase in vaccinations and talked about forthcoming large-scale events and other provider-driven efforts to bolster those efforts.
Cohen said the vaccine — for those who can get it — is safe, despite the reticence of some to get the shot. She said officials are working to get vaccines out as quickly as possible, though offering only vague details about how this will happen.
The state, in addition to health care workers, is focusing on people 75 and older, though age isn’t the only deciding factor in how the state will distribute vaccines. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is now pushing to give priority to people 65 or older, and those with underlying conditions. Cohen referred people to the state’s website.
Cooper, a Democrat, extended his latest executive order last week. Cohen doubled down. Last week she enacted a “secretarial directive” warning people to stay home, especially those older than 65. Cohen’s edict doesn’t carry the force of law and isn’t enforceable, though it does embolden Cooper as he issues unilateral decisions locking down the state.
Cooper’s latest “modified stay-at-home” order extends a statewide 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew. Bars remain closed, masks are required, and social gatherings remain limited. The order, issued Dec. 8, would have expired Friday.
Stay home, Cohen says. Don’t leave unless it’s for health care, school, work, or groceries.
Bars, for instance, have effectively been closed since March. They can open for limited outdoor seating, but for most staying open isn’t economically feasible. Alcohol sales, according to the order, must cease at 9 p.m., a prime time for business.
Cooper also recently signed an executive order allowing restaurants, bars, clubs, and hotels to sell sealed to-go containers of mixed alcoholic drinks, months after lawmakers killed a similar provision in a COVID-19 relief bill.
It’s too little too late, bar owners have said. More than 100 bars and restaurants in the Triangle have closed since March, because of the lockdowns and the subsequent lack of business.