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‘We can’t stay home forever.’ Gov. Cooper addresses criticism of N.C. stay at home orders

Updated: Apr. 21, 2020 at 11:56 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Governor Roy Cooper has responded to criticism of his stay at home orders following a protest earlier in the day in downtown Raleigh.

The ReOpenNC protest was the second held on consecutive Tuesdays. Hundreds showed up to protest Cooper’s orders aimed at combating the spread of COVID-19.

“I know how frustrated and anxious people are about wanting to get back to school and wanting to get back to work,” Cooper said during a press conference hours after the protest, “and at the same time I know how anxious families are to make sure they are safe from this highly-contagious virus that can take lives.”

Cooper said he and state leaders are working to ease restrictions “in a responsible way, in a staged way.” He said there would be more specifics about that plan to move forward and ease the restrictions coming this week.

“We understand that we can’t stay at home forever and that this is not something that is sustainable long-term,” the governor said. “But what we have to do is to ease back into it to make sure that this virus does not spike - which it very easily could do - overwhelming our hospitals.”

Cooper pointed to other areas like New York and Italy where the hospitals were overwhelmed, and said health officials have modeling data to show what would happen if the restrictions were removed altogether.

“I think most everyday North Carolinians understand that we have to approach this responsibly with public health and safety, saving lives at the forefront, but also understanding that we do need to ease restrictions in order to cushion the blow to the economy and get people back to school and back to work,” Cooper said.

WATCH LIVE | NC-COVID 19: Gov. Cooper discusses coronavirus in North Carolina after the state's largest one-day increase in virus-related deaths. Nearly 7,000 people now have COVID-19 in NC » https://bit.ly/2zcWspk

Posted by WBTV News on Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Cooper continued, “I think the people of North Carolina want us to rely on science and data and facts and consultation with our business community who are out there wanting to protect their employees and wanting to be doing more to contribute to the economy and I think it’s going to take all of us pulling together to do that the right way.”

As of Tuesday morning, North Carolina health officials reported a total of 6,951 cases of coronavirus across 93 counties with a total to 213 deaths. Tuesday’s report was the state’s largest single-day increase in reported deaths since the pandemic began.

During the press conference, Cooper also said he has signed an Executive Order to help furloughed workers whose employers have paid them a severance or furlough payment. Before the order, those workers were ineligible for employment compensation, but can now apply.

“We know this virus is taking a toll on our economy and on our workforce,” Cooper said, “and we can’t lose sight of how this virus is impacting our families in North Carolina.”

During a previous press conference, Cooper said in order to ease the current restrictions, North Carolina needs to make progress in three areas: testing, tracing and monitoring COVID-19 trends.

“This virus is going to be with us until there is a vaccine, which may be a year or more away," Cooper said. "As we ease restrictions, we are going to enter a new normal.”

“Our efforts to flatten the curve are working. And that means we have saved lives. The stay at home orders are working, but we know our current situation is not sustainable in the long run,” Cooper continued. “I know people are wondering, where do we go from here?”

Cooper said that experts say it would be “dangerous to lift restrictions all at once.” He said officials have to monitor for troubling signs of a spike in cases that could overwhelm our hospitals and risk lives.

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