Thursday Wrap: Reopening bars, election changes, GOP convention safety

Posted May 28, 2020 10:00 p.m. EDT

— Republican officials continue to register their opposition to the way Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper is handling the coronavirus pandemic.

Lawmakers quickly passed a measure Thursday that would allow bars to reopen and restaurants to expand through the use of outdoor seating. Last week, Cooper moved the state into a second stage of his reopening plan by allowing restaurants to reopen at half capacity, but he said bars must remain closed for several more weeks to limit the spread of the virus.

Cooper criticized the bill, especially since it restricts his and local authorities' power to close bars again if there's a surge in new infections.

House Speaker Tim Moore said he believes other legislation could be coming that would allow gyms and other businesses still closed under executive order to reopen. Moore said he believes data shows there's not much community spread of the virus in the state and pointed to South Carolina, which has been more aggressive about resuming business and social activities during the pandemic without a spike in cases.

The House also overwhelming passed a package of changes to state elections laws, such as how absentee ballots are witnessed and who can work at a polling site, in response to the pandemic. The Senate is expected to pass the bill next week.

Finally, the back and forth between the Cooper administration and Republican officials over the GOP convention in Charlotte in August continued. In response to President Donald Trump's threat to move the convention if not guaranteed a full house, Cooper's top health officials asked for detailed health safety plans. Republican National Committee officials on Thursday provided only eight protocols, such as thermal scanning of people entering Spectrum Center and hand sanitizer, but didn't mention masks or any social distancing guidelines for the event.

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