By John Trump
Carolina Journal News Service
RALEIGH — North Carolina won’t fully open anytime soon. The governor’s curfews and shutdowns will continue for three more weeks.
Dr. Mandy Cohen piled on Wednesday, Jan. 6. The head of North Carolina’s Department of Health and Human Services enacted a “secretarial directive” warning people to stay home, especially those older than 65.
“We’re in a very dangerous place,” said Cohen during a news briefing.
Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, also extended his latest executive order. “The numbers paint a dark and difficult picture,” he said.
More than 7,000 people in the state have died because of the coronavirus, and 84 of the state’s 100 counties are in the critical red zone, in terms of infection.
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.
In other words, stay home, Cooper says. Double down on taking precautions against COVID-19. 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.
Zack Medford, a prominent and vocal Raleigh bar owner, on Monday said he has closed Coglin’s on Fayetteville Street, which, he wrote on Facebook, fell “victim to insufficient government aid, negligent leadership from elected officials, and inequitable state policies.”
“Out of money, and out of hope, the bar was forced to lay off over 25 employees and turn the lights off one final time.”
Lawyers for bar owners have filed two lawsuits challenging the restrictions, although their chance for success is fragile, at best. Restrictions probably won’t be lifted until enough people get a vaccine and state residents develop a type of herd immunity.
Administration of the vaccine, though, is slow-going, and Cooper has mobilized the National Guard to accelerate the process. The state has received about a half million doses, the Centers for Disease Control reports, and about 137,000 have so far been distributed.
Communication, in regard to informing people about vaccine availability, has been generally opaque. The state, in addition to health care workers, is focusing on people 75 and older. Cohen referred people to the state’s website.
“Vaccine supply is limited,” she says. It will be a matter of months, she said, before the vaccine is available to all who want it.
Senate Leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, in a news release last week said Cooper’s vaccine distribution plan still puts too little emphasis on age and is overly complicated, leading to decreased confidence and line-jumping.