According to various reports, Governor Roy Cooper is going to announce that North Carolina will enter into Phase 2 of reopening the economy. Restaurants and bars will be able to serve customers, though with certain restrictions including reduced capacity. Gyms and hair salons will also be able to open. We’re taking baby steps toward getting the economy rolling again. 

I suspect we’ve stayed at home about as long as most of us can stand. People need to socialize and businesses need to work. Cooper’s cautious approach has almost certainly saved lives and increased the amount of time before the next wave of infections. He set benchmarks and stuck to them, unlike the White House. North Carolina has had fewer deaths both in raw numbers and in deaths per hundred thousand people than most states.  

Republicans have been beating a constant drum of criticism, claiming that Cooper is too slow in acting and not transparent enough about the data he’s using to make decisions. The people in North Carolina, though, generally agree with what he’s done and trust his leadership. Stakeholders like the Restaurant and Lodging Association have praised Cooper’s administration for keeping them updated. “We’ve been in daily communication with the governor’s office and the Department of Health and Human Services. It’s a relief in that we know what to expect and plan for,” director Lynn Minges told the News & Observer. Polls show high approval for Cooper’s approach to the virus. 

We are still at the beginning of the pandemic, despite the disinformation coming from the White House. No vaccine is on the way. It’s not going to mysteriously disappear. It still spreads rapidly and easily. And it’s still very deadly to people with chronic conditions, including old age. In all likelihood, we will see another significant spike in cases and it will spread far beyond its epicenter in New York. 

Republicans are right that we need to put special emphasis on protecting those in nursing homes. They are wrong in falling back on the federalism argument to defend the failures of the Trump administration. The virus doesn’t adhere to state lines and unless opening up the country includes shutting down state borders, the country needs a national response that includes testing a tracing. We need continued aid to families and businesses that have been hurt protecting our fellow citizens. And we need legislation that protects people from losing homes to foreclosures and ensures that our frontline workers are both fairly compensated and adequately protected. 

As we move into phase 2, we should beginning planning for the next spike in cases. Republicans should spend less time blaming the governor for shutting us down and more time demanding the leader of their party step up to the challenge. Instead of incessantly pointing out that most deaths occurred among residents of nursing homes or blaming China, they should use the leverage they have to demand plans and rebuild trust. Right now, people want results and reassurances and they are getting neither from the GOP.    

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