Gov. Roy Cooper has signed a new executive order to extend North Carolina’s COVID-19 response, a measure he contends is necessary despite a “sustained decline” in cases.
Cooper issued Executive Order 256 on Friday to extend provisions granting the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services secretary flexibility to increase the health care workforce to ensure continuity of operations in hospitals, adult care homes, nursing homes, and other long-term care facilities.
The new order means professional licensing boards will retain the authority to modify or waive requirements that would otherwise prevent retired medical professionals, trained students and other individuals from providing care to COVID patients.
The order also extends authority for the state health director to issue statewide directives on COVID-19 testing and vaccination, as well as COVID treatments, such as monoclonal antibody treatments and other newly authorized therapeutic treatments, according to a Cooper statement.
“While we have turned the corner on this pandemic, we must continue to make sure that tests, vaccines, and treatments are widely available and that we remain prepared for the potential of future surges,” Cooper said. “The measures in this Executive Order are essential to North Carolina’s continued response to this virus.”
Cooper contends the “possibility of future surges” means the state must continue to monitor key COVID-19 metrics including wastewater surveillance data, vaccination and booster rates, prevalence of variants in the state, and data on community spread from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Cooper acknowledged that “these metrics, taken together, indicate declining COVID transmission across North Carolina and declining severity of disease and hospital burden from COVID,” but nonetheless extended his previous pandemic related executive orders until at least July 15, 2022.
Republicans in the General Assembly, meanwhile, are urging Cooper to move on from the pandemic.
“North Carolinians are done with government bureaucrats and their endless pandemic edicts,” House Speaker Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, posted to Twitter on Monday. “It’s time for Governor Cooper to end his unnecessary COVID-19 State of Emergency.”
Moore’s post comes about a month after all Republicans in the lower chamber penned a letter to Cooper pleading to end the government’s pandemic orders, citing recent changes in federal COVID guidance and data on the disease in North Carolina to support the move.
“Simply put, there is no emergency,” lawmakers wrote. “Yet, there is still no plan or exit strategy set forth by your administration outlining how and when the nearly-two-year state of emergency can be lifted.”
The letter was dated the same day Cooper officially lifted mask mandates for state government agencies in his cabinet, though some agency heads retain authority to mandate masks in “high risk” settings, such as long-term care facilities, correctional facilities, homeless shelters and health care settings.
Days later, Republicans failed to gain the required three-fifths majority needed to override Cooper’s veto of Senate Bill 173, known as the Free the Smiles Act, which would have made masks optional in schools statewide.
This article was originally posted on Cooper extends North Carolina’s COVID response via executive order