Phase 2.5? Cooper hints at earlier re-open for gyms, bars
No promises, but as the legislature and lawsuits seek to force the governor's hand on more re-openings, he floats picking up the pace.Posted — Updated
Gov. Roy Cooper hinted Thursday at a potential Phase 2.5 in the state's staged economic re-start, opening the door on the possibility that gyms and bars will open sooner than planned.
The governor didn't provide many details, but he broached the possibility after being asked about pending legislation to force his hand on gyms and bars. Both industries have filed suit to demand they be allowed to reopen.
The governor criticized both bills Thursday, saying they take away flexibility the state needs if it sees an uptick on coronavirus cases and he needs to walk back economic re-openings.
But the bar bill got bipartisan support in the General Assembly. If Cooper vetoes it, Democrats who voted for the measure will face a decision: Stand with the governor or keep backing the bill.
The General Assembly's Republican majority doesn't have the numbers to overturn Cooper's veto on its own.
The governor also faces a series of lawsuits from groups trying to force their way back into business, including bars, gyms and bowling alleys.
Asked for more details on a potential Phase 2.5, Cooper repeated a mantra for his administration in this crisis: "We're going to let the science and the data drive decisions here."
But it's possible, he said, that some of the few categories of businesses still closed by state order can open before the start of Phase 3, which is planned for late this month.
If case numbers and other trends make health officials "comfortable being able to turn that dimmer switch up just a little bit," that's when the governor will look at relaxing restrictions, Cooper said.
Thursday's briefing focused largely on a new task force Cooper will appoint to study health disparities around COVID-19, new edicts billed as a way to help minority businesses and a pair of new web pages.
The new task force will be named after Andrea Harris, who co-founded the N.C. Institute of Minority Economic Development and died last month. It will study health and economic disparities for minorities
Some 22 percent of North Carolinians are black, but they make up 30 percent of the state's known COVID-19 cases and 34 percent of the deaths, Cooper said. The numbers are even more stark for Latinos: 10 percent of the state's total population, 40 percent of the state's confirmed cases where race or ethnicity is known.
"These statistics are alarming and they are not acceptable," Cooper said.
Copyright 2023 by Capitol Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.