With the current executive order set to expire Friday, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said he will announce an executive order that day concerning the current state of emergency and COVID-19 restrictions.
Cooper spoke Thursday at a news conference about the executive order, but didn’t provide any details of what might be in a new order or whether the current one will be extended. Nearly all statewide restrictions have already been lifted. Under the current order, there is a mask mandate indoors in certain settings, including schools and health care sites.
North Carolina has been under a state of emergency due to the coronavirus pandemic since March 2020.
“The state of emergency is allowing us to draw down federal funds,” Cooper said. “It’s allowing us to waive state and local regulations to be able to get vaccines to these people faster, so it’s an important part of getting this pandemic behind us.”
Cooper said the state is using those funds for emergency management and the North Carolina National Guard to help administer vaccines.
He said he would talk about the specifics of the new order on Friday.
Earlier this week, House Majority Leader Rep. John Bell and House Majority Whip Rep. Keith Kidwell sent a letter to Cooper asking about the state of emergency. The letter notes other states’ plans to lift states of emergency.
“The people of North Carolina have worked extremely hard to follow and adhere to social distancing guidelines and restrictions. They deserve more information and transparency in this process,” Bell and Kidwell wrote.
“We respectfully ask that you provide the legislature and the citizens of this great state with the specific details on how and when the state of emergency can be lifted,” they said.
As of Thursday afternoon, they had not received a reply, a Bell spokesperson told The N&O.
How other states handle state of emergency
South Carolina’s Gov. Henry McMaster, a Republican, ended South Carolina’s state of emergency for COVID-19 on Monday, The State reported.
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, a Democrat, has told 8News television station in Virginia that he does not plan to extend his state of emergency for COVID-19 past its expiration of June 30.
Senate leader Phil Berger told reporters after the Senate floor session Thursday that he doesn’t see “a continuing need for there to be an executive order that mandates masks at any place in the state of North Carolina.”
Berger, who is fully vaccinated, said Thursday that the mask mandate should be lifted entirely.
“The need for masks seems to be at an end, from what I can tell,” Berger told reporters. “We’ve had large events and a long enough period of time from those events, both in North Carolina and other places, and not seen the kind of bump folks seem to be concerned about from a ‘superspreader’ event.
“I think individuals can make decisions as to whether they want to wear a mask or not,” he added. “Businesses can make decisions as to whether or not they want to require their patrons to wear a mask. Health care facilities can make decisions as to whether or not they feel that masks are necessary or important.”
The mask mandate in certain settings in North Carolina, like schools and health care facilities, comes under Cooper’s executive orders related to the COVID-19 state of emergency.
“What we’ve been able to research, I don’t see that there is any diminishment of any federal funds that would be coming to the state of North Carolina on the failure to have a mask mandate, unless it’s some federal money to pay for masks,” Berger said.
Earlier in June, Cooper and N.C. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen said there are multiple factors at play with masks and the orders.
“The state of emergency needs to continue,” Cooper said last week. “We need to continue to draw down federal funds. We need to continue to do things to make sure that we get people vaccinated. We still have mask mandates in places that are recommended by the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention].”
Cohen said that the vast majority of children in schools are unvaccinated. Vaccine is not yet available for children younger than 12.
For more North Carolina government and politics news, listen to the Under the Dome politics podcast from The News & Observer and the NC Insider. You can find it at link.chtbl.com/underthedomenc or wherever you get your podcasts.