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Politics
Coronavirus news and updates about the Charlotte region, the Carolinas and beyond.

Once Quiet, NC Republicans Push Cooper For Reopen Plan

Phil Berger
NC General Assembly

For the first three weeks of North Carolina’s stay-at-home order, the state’s top Republicans were mostly silent.

But that’s changing quickly. 

Republican Senate leader Phil Berger sent North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper a letter Wednesday asking why the governor has not laid out a “step-by-step” plan to reopen the economy. He then said, “the fact that no such plan has been publicized may lead to a reasonable conclusion that no such plan exists.”

Berger also said he wants the state to disclose the number of people who recover from COVID-19 each day and details about the underlying health conditions of those who died.

Without that information, it’s hard for anyone to know the severity of the outbreak, he said.

"I think it's time for us to know what the governor is intending to do - and what's criteria he's looking at," Berger said Wednesday. 

Berger has previously pushed for the state to test a random sample of North Carolinians to determine who has the virus and who may have had it and recovered. Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center has said it will test 1,000 state residents.

Ninth District Congressman Dan Bishop – a Charlotte Republican – said the state also needs to give detailed information about how much personal protective equipment it needs. He attended Tuesday’s ReOpen NC protest in Raleigh that drew roughly 500 people.

"I would suggest to you that you can’t possibly know what the answer to that (how much PPE is available)  because the governor hasn’t told any of us," Bishop said. "Where are the problems? Where are the supply shortages and exactly what are they? If I know, I can help get them resolved."

In Wednesday's press briefing, Director of Emergency Management Mike Sprayberry said the state has purchase orders for $280 million worth of PPE -- but has received 5% of what has been ordered. Stock has been depleted, he said. For instance, the state has ordered 21 million N-95 masks, but received 94,000.

"Many vendors do not actually have stock immediately available," Sprayberry said.

Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Forest – who is challenging Cooper in November – also criticized Cooper Wednesday and said the state “must have a sense of urgency to open.”

When Cooper first issued the stay-at-home order in March, Forest questioned the decision and said it was done without the majority of the Council of State officers. But Forest did not criticize Cooper after that.

Cooper said last week the current stay-at-home order is not sustainable, but he wanted to see improvements in contact tracing, and testing along with a decline in new cases before reopening. Dory MacMillan, a spokesperson for Cooper, said the governor will give more details this week about the state's next steps.

The Trump Administration has said states should show a decline of COVID-19 cases over a 14-day period before reopening.

North Carolina has flattened the curve, with the doubling time for known cases increasing. But the state can’t show that new cases are consistently going down.

Other Southern states – like Georgia, South Carolina and Tennessee – have also not shown their new cases are declining. But they are partially reopening anyway.

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