Editorial: Cooper, other governors, fill Trump's COVID-19 leadership void

Posted March 14, 2020 5:00 a.m. EDT
Updated March 14, 2020 7:48 a.m. EDT

Governor Cooper coronavirus task force

CBC Editorial: Saturday, March 14, 2020; Editorial #8520
The following is the opinion of Capitol Broadcasting Company.

With great fanfare on Friday afternoon President Donald Trump again promised to take charge of the coronavirus pandemic. Experience tells us to not count on it.

We’ve heard it before. Our nation’s governors have not been waiting. North Carolina’s Gov. Roy Cooper among the most prominent – stepped up to fill the White House’s void.

Amid the stumbling, contradictions, inaccuracies and confusion coming from Washington on confronting the coronavirus outbreak, governors offered hope and real action.

States, local governments and institutions are acting on their own. North Carolina is the textbook example.

Two weeks before Trump acted, Cooper created a special state task force to monitor and when the situation necessitated, coordinate and direct actions to deal with the coronavirus outbreak. They have acted in a timely manner to address the rapidly changing health environment and worked diligently to be open and keep the public informed.

Diverse agencies – state, local, private and even some federal – are communicating and working together. Universities and local schools; athletic event organizers and entertainment promoters; corporate executives and small business operators; all have been able to find reliable information as well as support as they’ve needed to make critical decisions about whether to hold events; how to coordinate workforce demands and provide a safe workplace environment.

Difficult decisions are being made – it seems on an hourly basis. The impacts aren’t being taken lightly since they involve very significant investment, expense for individuals and disruption to long-made plans. It has been the state agencies that have provided the credible information.

It is because of these state agencies that decision-makers like the leaders of the Atlantic Coast Conference, could feel confident that the difficult determination to cancel the iconic conference basketball tournament – perhaps North Carolina’s most significant non-religious observance – was the prudent one.

There are more decisions to be made in the coming days, for North Carolina it may require going beyond the governor’s authority to needing the General Assembly’s action to address some critical needs.

The broad cooperation among diverse individuals and agencies must continue so citizens remain confident that it is their health and welfare that is the first priority.

To that end, the General Assembly needs now to work with the governor, the state’s education, health care sector and business leaders to address immediate needs.

The resources are certainly there. There is $1.2 billion in the “rainy-day” fund that could address immediate health needs and others related to education – including providing nutrition to children who cannot access school meals. There is a $3.8 billion surplus in the state’s unemployment trust fund that is available to address the lost wages and income issues for workers affected by coronavirus-related job suspensions and business closures.

There is great danger that people without medical insurance will not seek care if they are sick or get tested. That situation simply increases the broader public danger. The obvious solution is to work with Gov. Cooper and expand Medicaid.

The state’s legislative leadership needs to consider the effect their policies are having on real North Carolina citizens and realize it is time to park its political ideology. Addressing these needs is the right thing to do. There’s plenty of money available to do it.

Our national political leaders have failed their responsibilities. The blame will squarely be on our legislature if it doesn’t avoid the same.

There is much to do. Get down to business.

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