Editorial: Cooper's latest order is on target

Posted March 30, 2020 5:00 a.m. EDT
Updated March 30, 2020 10:13 a.m. EDT

03-29-2020: Gov. Roy Cooper (left) meets with N.C. Emergency Managment Director Mike Sprayberry and N.C. Dept. of Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen. (Photo from N.C. Governor's Office)

CBC Editorial: Monday, March 30, 2020; Editorial #8526
The following is the opinion of Capitol Broadcasting Company.

In addressing the dangerous spread of the COVID-19 virus, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper and his advisers have been steady and cautious. That wise approach is the essence of the statewide stay-at-home order that is effective at 5 p.m. today.

It is a common-sense order that tells us not to leave our homes except for work that’s considered essential or life-sustaining – getting food, exercise or seeking medical attention. The order provides for a rather broad list of businesses and services, considered essential, that can remain open and operating while following physical distancing guidelines to thwart spread of the deadly coronavirus.

In the days leading up to Cooper’s order late Friday, the state Chamber of Commerce, fairly concerned with economic impacts, pressed the governor to avoid issuing a stay-at-home order, and then only as a last resort. We thought the chamber was treading on shaky ground. It has now, appropriately, endorsed Cooper's order. "The NC Chamber supports this decision and is prepared to assist the business community in understanding how best to comply," Chamber President Gary Salamido said in as note to the membership.

State Senate leader Phil Berger, just hours before the governor’s announcement, released a statement demanding no stay-at-home order until there was “the benefit of relevant and obtainable data.”

The Chamber and Berger’s pressure came even as the state’s leading public health experts, including the state doctors, nurses and healthcare providers, all were demanding some version of a shelter-in-place order.

We believe the suggestions from Berger and the Chamber were ill-advised and dangerous. If we fail to act now, the consequences of a large spike in infections would overwhelm our medical facilities posing a even greater risk to our health and our economy.

Dr. Mandy Cohen, N.C. Secretary of Health and Human Services, was on the mark at Friday’s announcement: “We do not have the luxury of time. We must act quickly based on what we do know to slow the spread of the virus.”

Make no mistake, Cooper stressed: “Because no one is immune. Because there is not vaccination. The best scientifically proven tool we have to slow the spread is keeping our physical distance.”

The state Chamber and Berger seek to limit economic damage in our reaction to dealing with this outbreak. Gathering more data, as Berger suggests, will certainly inform our future. Our state and nation are in uncharted territory now, and we have much to learn. We’ll leave to later the debates as to whether we were properly prepared, whether we reacted as swiftly as necessary or if we under or over reacted.

But we do know the consequences if the state Chamber and Berger are wrong are far greater – literally matters of life and death – than if we follow the order the governor and his advisers have laid out.

Just as the state Chamber and Sen. Phil Berger have made their opinions known, it is abundantly clear that the governor considered their views along with the advice from the medical and health care communities, his staff and other experts.

It is now time that Berger, House Speaker Tim Moore and the state Chamber, publicly endorse and support the governor. We are glad the Chamber has come around.

Now is the time to unite behind the efforts to slow and stop COVID-19 from spreading. That is the best prescription.

This editorial has been updated, after being notified by the N.C. Chamber of Commerce that it did, late Friday, endorse Gov. Roy Cooper's executive order in a note to its membership and via social media channels. Here is a link to the Chamber's endorsement.

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