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State lawmaker calls for larger 'ReOpen' rallies in Raleigh

Posted May 7, 2020 5:17 p.m. EDT
Updated May 7, 2020 7:03 p.m. EDT

Sen Ford Zoom interview with Reopen NC

— Even as public health leaders are warning Americans against gathering in large groups during the coronavirus pandemic, a North Carolina state senator is calling for a massive rally in Raleigh to push for businesses to be allowed to reopen.

In a May 6 interview with Sen. Carl Ford, R-Rowan, ReOpenNC founder Ashley Smith credited Ford with helping to inspire her to start the group and asked him whether the rallies are working to put pressure on Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper to speed up the reopening process.

Ford said the rallies are helping, "but I'd like to see us have 10,000 or 20,000 in Raleigh. That would really get the message across."

The group's largest protest to date has been around 1,000 people.

Ford is one of three primary sponsors of a Senate bill that would dismiss criminal penalties for any business owner who violates the governor's emergency closure orders and protect business owners who have to be licensed from any potential disciplinary action by the relevant licensing authority.

In the interview, Ford conceded the chance of the bill becoming law "are pretty slim," but he predicted it will pass the Senate with the full support of the Republican caucus.

"I’m sure there’ll be a long and very exciting debate, including the Democrats trying to talk through their masks," Ford told Smith.

During last week's legislative session to pass coronavirus relief measures, the wearing of masks seemed to be a partisan issue. Democrats in both chambers wore them, but few House Republicans and no Senate Republicans did.

Ford also said in the interview that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention "said don’t wear masks."

That was the case early in the pandemic. However, on April 3, the CDC changed its guidance and now recommends wearing masks in places where social distancing is difficult or where community spread of the virus is high.

Ford lives in and represents Rowan County, which currently has the state's seventh-highest rate of infections per capita and the ninth-highest rate of deaths per capita from the disease.

Ford did not immediately respond to WRAL News' request for comment or clarification.

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