Cooper’s 3 Phase Plan to Keep NC Shutdown for Months

RALEIGH – Governor Roy Cooper extended the ‘Stay-at-Home’ order Thursday. The headline date on that extension is May 8. So, at first glance at the evening news it appeared to be merely another week or so under this un-American lockdown. Closer inspection of Cooper’s three phase, top-down, one-size-fits-all plan really sets us up for months more of isolation decrees from the government.

Rick Henderson points this out at the Carolina Journal:

“North Carolinians face a few more months of at least partial isolation, based on recommendations Gov. Roy Cooper made at a Thursday, April 23, news conference. […]

Cooper and Cohen based the guidelines loosely around recommendations announced earlier this week by the Trump administration. But the timetables put North Carolina at a competitive disadvantage with neighboring South Carolina, Tennessee, and Georgia. Those states either plan or have planned to relax some of their restrictions on commerce and mobility within a few days or weeks.

Cooper’s plan has the state gradually reopening businesses and social gatherings under a three-phase system. Perhaps after May 8. “It will depend on the facts and the data and the science” before the first phase of reopening begins, he said.

Officials are looking at trends of COVID-19 diagnoses, hospitalizations, daily tests, and stockpiles of personal protective equipment, among other things. As incidence of the disease flattens or declines, the phases would start kicking in. […]”

This is not the kind of approach many across North Carolina were hoping for. Those who are struggling to keep their business afloat, pay their bills, or opposed to the the authoritarian orders on principle, can hardly be satisfied with a plan that treats every corner of the state the same and continues to undermine not only the livelihoods of our citizens, but the freedoms that enable our American way of life.

Cooper’s natural opponents, Lt. Gov. Dan Forest and Republican Senate leader Phil Berger (Rockingham) were critical of the one-size-fits-all approach and hopeful that the pledge of more transparency is more than mere lip-service.

So, what are these phases that only begin to take effect after May 8th?

Phase 1

  • Your Dear Leader will allow you to go out to some businesses not currently defined as essential by Raleigh bureaucrats, such as clothing stores, sporting goods stores, book shops, hardware stores and other retailers.
  • Those stores that are open still have to practice social distancing, enhanced hygiene and cleaning, employee screening and other sanitation requirements under penalty of law.
  • Gatherings are limited to no more than 10 people
  • Parks would reopen subject to the gathering limitation.
  • Face coverings would still be encouraged in public spaces when 6 feet of distancing isn’t possible.
  • Employers would be encouraged to continue teleworking policies.
  • Maintain rigorous restrictions on nursing homes and similar settings would continue.

The next phase is not initiated until certain arbitrary metrics are hit. Again, statewide metrics have to be met before your community can open up, regardless of whether or not your community has a single case of the virus or not. This would be around the end of May at earliest, but likely into June.

Those metrics turn the entire ‘reopen’ into the kind of top-down, moving target solutions that will mire the economy and livelihoods for much longer than warranted in so many communities across the Old North State.

The number of people with COVID-19-like illness? They say that trend must level off for at least two weeks, and then tell us that is has been decreasing for two weeks.

Then, the lab-confirmed cases must level off. If we are getting more tests, and testing more people than ever, how is this a useful metric to condition reopening on?

The percentage of positive tests must level off for at least two weeks, yet it has been increasing slowly. How is this a reliable indicator?

Say 100 people watch the news, worry about their sniffle and get a test. The results show 97 them are negative. That’s a three percent positive rate. Now, say the next week only 50 people worry they might have the coronavirus, so they get tested, and two are positive. That is a four percent positive rate. This metric can fail with falling case numbers.

Finally, hospitalizations. This is a very straight forward, reasonable metric to use, especially since it was the worry of overwhelming hospital capacity that led to these shutdowns. The rate of hospitalization must at least level off for 14 days, but hospital capacities were never stretched and have remained steady through out. We are a week or more past the peak resource use according the IHME, and never approached limits on capacity.

Those are the goal posts just to move from one phase to another. So how about the next phase?

Phase 2

  • The benevolent Cooper will lift statewide Stay-at-home orders, but vulnerable people would be encouraged to continue staying at home.
  • He’ll grant a limited reopening for restaurants, bars, fitness centers, personal care services, and other businesses that can follow safety protocols, including potentially a reduced capacity. Probably a new occupancy limit per square foot.
  • King Cooper will allow for gathering, at reduced capacity, at houses of worship and entertainment venues.
  • He’ll allow an increase in the number of people allowed at gatherings, beyond the current 10.
  • Parents and children will allowed to again assume their own risk in visiting a public playground.
  • Rigorous restrictions on nursing homes would continue.

Then about 4-6 weeks later, with all metrics are met, phase three, in which the governor will finally begin to release the grip…a little.

  • Cooper will then let designated vulnerable populations to get out more, with encouragement to continue practicing physical distancing and minimizing exposure
  • The governor will also allow you to go to restaurants, bars, other businesses, houses of worships, and entertainment venues with more people.
  • Even larger gatherings would be allowed, but not too large.
  • Rigorous restrictions on nursing homes and similar settings would continue.

Cooper’s ‘reopening plan’ is not that. It is a plan to keep so much of North Carolina closed for weeks or months longer, all the while violating core tenets of our way of life in with a deleterious effect on our economy and general welfare.

In the aftermath of Cooper’s announcement Thursday, many small-business owners and righteously indignant citizens from around the state wondered what the trade off is between following Cooper’s course, or simply restarting their lives and businesses as they see fit.

As this drags on, more and more will see no other choice than to ignore the executive order’s cumbersome matrix of metrics, and simply reopen or reengage their business in order to save their livelihoods. Our guess is that it will only be after a healthy and obvious level of civil disobedience that Governor Cooper actually moves to return the state to some semblance of normalcy.

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