Lock It Down: Health Czar Mandy Cohen Sends Letter to Worst COVID Counties Urging Stricter Lockdowns, Fines for Non-Compliant Citizens, Use of ‘Imminent Hazard’ Shutdown Authority

RALEIGH – The second wave is here. No, not the feared second wave of coronavirus — positivity rates, and hospitalizations are steady — but a second wave of Pandemic Panic.

You’ve surely noticed it. ‘Record new cases,’ and ‘Fall Surges’ stories are hitting the press around this country, and Europe, leading to talks of returning to lockdown.

And it’s cresting right before the election.

Leading the effort to drum up more panic in the Old North State is Secretary of the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services Health Czar Mandy Cohen. The good doctor recently admonished citizens when referring to ‘concerning growth in cases,’ saying ‘we don’t want to have to go backwards.’ Well, a new letter reveals that ‘going backwards’ is exactly what she’s encouraging local counties to do when it comes to lockdown.

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In a letter to several counties with ‘concerning case trends,’ Cohen urges them to enact and enforce civil penalties — fines — for citizens that violate local social distancing ordinances. And if compliance is a still a problem, she encourages the counties to support local health directors in leveraging their authoritarian ‘imminent hazard’ powers to shut down problematic businesses. Further, she pushes the counties toward more general tightening of lockdown restrictions, tighter than that in Cooper’s current Phase 3.

It’s all a part of their effort “to win the hearts and minds of North Carolinians.”

The letter from Czar Cohen:

“Thank you for participating in the recent calls Secretary Cohen convened with the help of the NC Association of County Commissions and the NC League of Municipalities. Along with those groups, we ask for your continued help in the fight against COVID-19. As discussed, we are seeing concerning trends in case counts and hospitalizations in our state and nationally, and we need your help to reduce the transmission of this virus. You are receiving this follow-up request because your community meets the following metrics: you are in a county that has had 300 or more new cases in the last 14 days and has been identified by the White House Task Force as a county of concern; your case rate is greater than 50 cases per 10,000 people; or your county is one of the top three most populous counties in the state.

As discussed on the calls, our first and best approach to continuing to slow the spread of COVID-19 is to win the hearts and minds of North Carolinians. NCDHHS has created a wide array of resources you can use, including the Three W’s (Wear a face covering, Wait six feet apart and Wash your hands campaign materials, the Whatever the Reason: Get Behind the Mask campaign materials, a faith leaders toolkit and more that can all be found here. Thank you for all you are doing as leaders to support these efforts – serving as exemplars in your community is very powerful. We hope you will consider doing or continuing what has taken place already across the state: creating local signs, flags, and banners to promote compliance; promoting the Three W’s when speaking to the press and community groups; partnering with local media on radio and television spots; and promoting similar messaging on social media and web-pages. We also ask you to consider additional local actions to improve compliance to best position our health systems and first responders to respond to the challenges that can accompany rising cases of COVID-19. Some examples are:

Those additional actions are all authoritarian solutions: fines, stricter lockdowns, and turning loose the local health directors to shutdown disfavored businesses as ‘imminent hazards.’

Czar Mandy is even so kind as to provide sample language for those new civil penalties they want the locals to beat citizens into submission with.

More:

Adopt an ordinance that imposes a civil penalty or fine (separate from issuing a Class 2 misdemeanor) for violating the provisions of a local ordinance or issue a local Emergency Proclamation addressing the COVID-19 pandemic.

    • The general statutory authority for implementing and enforcing ordinances consistent with the general police powers of local governments is found in Article 6 of Chapter 153A of the General Statutes for counties or Article 8 of Chapter 160A of the General Statutes for cities. Specifically, enforcement authority for imposing a civil fine or penalty is found at N.C. Gen. Stat. § 153A-123 and § 160A-175 respectively, and we have attached sample language for your consideration.
    • Actions to consider could include restrictions imposing a higher State of Emergency standard than those included in the Governor’s most recent Executive Order, as allowed by Section 7.3 of Executive Order No. 169: (1) imposing fines for businesses that do not enforce the mask requirements; (2) establishing lower mass gathering limits; (3) curtailing the sale of alcohol earlier than 11 pm; (4) closing high risk venues such as bars and night spots; and (5) limiting restaurant service.

Support your Local Health Director in the utilization of their authority, pursuant to N.C. Gen. Stat. § 130A-20, to issue and enforce an Imminent Hazard Abatement Order against entities whose actions, including failure to comply with the Governor’s Executive Order, present an imminent hazard to your community. […]”

So, while Governor Roy Cooper boasts about moving the state into Phase 3 (but not really) and desperately tries to shield his reelection campaign from blame for tanking the economy and violating our freedoms, his Health Czar is quietly telling counties to lock it down, fine your citizens, demand compliance, ruin more businesses.

Yes, the Second Wave of Pandemic Panic is here, and right in time for the election.

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