North Carolina’s never-ending state of emergency

North Carolina’s never-ending state of emergency

Signs urged people to stay home in April 2020. Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

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Lawmakers and state officials are at odds over who’s responsible for taking the next step toward ending North Carolina’s COVID-19 state of emergency.

The intrigue: Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper made the emergency declaration in March 2020. For at least the past year, Republican lawmakers have repeatedly asked him to lift it, saying there is no longer a need.

  • In a letter obtained by Axios this month, state health department secretary Kody Kinsley put the onus on Republican House Speaker Tim Moore, saying the GOP-led legislature should expand DHHS’s authority to issue health-related orders.
  • Then, Kinsley says, DHHS could “adequately manage” COVID-19 without a state of emergency in place.

Why it matters: The issues in the letter are mostly technicalities, but some Republicans see the overall state of emergency as an attempt to hold onto the power the order gives him.

Others were frustrated with the timing of the letter, which was dated the day after the legislature wrapped up a 13-month session.

  • “The COVID-19 emergency is over, and Gov. Cooper’s refusal to rescind his executive order exposes his actions as nothing more than a political power grab,” Senate leader Phil Berger said in a statement. “The Cooper administration’s last-minute, timed to be impossible to comply with, request to the General Assembly for ‘legislative action’ is the latest effort to end-run the legislature.”

Details: In his letter, Kinsley said the legislature could pass measures that give NCDHHS the ability to waive some regulations and permission to allow out-of-state providers the ability to practice in North Carolina without a license.

  • He also asked that the General Assembly give nursing facilities the ability to hire temporary aides without a certification, and let ambulances be staffed by one person, instead of two.
  • Kinsley also asked for the authority to issue statewide orders for health care procedures or interventions — like vaccinations — needed to control the spread of COVID with immunity from liability.
  • And for the ability to give some professionals who handle lead and asbestos management and abatement more time to complete refresher training requirements.

    Cooper’s office responded with a statement: “​​North Carolina has no mask mandate, capacity limits, school or business closures related to the pandemic. The Emergency Order still provides the legal tool that waives regulations so medical providers have flexibility in providing health care and vaccines, which is still needed. The administration will continue to discuss with legislators how they could pass laws that serve the same purpose and eliminate the need for the Emergency Order at this time.”

    What’s next: The legislature could take up the issue when it returns for a short session in mid-May.

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